Water Policy News: Final Update of the 2022 Session
2022 Legislative Session Ends – Our Analysis
The 2022 Legislative Session closed on March 12. We have the details on what bills passed, which failed, and what’s next for our water.
Before we dive into the details, please consider reading a special fundraising message. Advocating for clean water is expensive work. And we count on donations from people like you to make it happen.
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Bill to Weaken Storage Tank Inspections Dies in Committee
You did it again! Your advocacy stopped a bill that would have weakened drinking water protections under the Aboveground Storage Tank Act!
During the final days of the legislative session, the Senate Energy, Industry, and Mining Committee unanimously voted to table HB 2598, the bill that would have removed mandatory inspections by qualified professionals of aboveground oil and gas tanks closest to drinking water intakes. Read an article in the Charleston Gazette-Mail.
Your comments played an important role in shining a light on why professional inspections are so important for drinking water safety! Your advocacy stopped this bill from advancing.
Preserving West Virginia’s State Parks and Forests
One of the most contentious bills this session, HB 4408, was the proposal to expand private, for-profit operation of facilities like amusement parks and ATV trails within our state parks and forests under 50-year lease terms.
Fortunately HB 4408 was heavily amended while in the Senate. Amendments were adopted that addressed many of our concerns.
The following provisions were amended into the rule:
- We were successful in guaranteeing public input on proposed new development in the County where the park is located.;
- the leasing terms were shortened;
- Watoga State Park is exempted from any private development to preserve its dark skies designation;
- and we protected our state parks from wholesale privatization.
Watoga State Park is ineligible for any private development under HB 4408. Photo by Watoga State Park Foundation.
HB 4408 passage came down to the wire on Saturday evening. Delegates voted for the modified bill during the last 30 minutes of the session. Many thank to all of the advocates who took a stand for our state’s public lands!
Funding for the WVDEP Office of Oil & Gas
Throughout the session, we advocated for funding to equip the WVDEP Office of Oil & Gas with enough inspectors to keep our water safe. Right now, WVDEP has only 9 inspectors responsible for 75,000 wells – that’s 1 inspector for every 8,000 wells! That’s unacceptable for the state agency tasked with the regulatory oversite of oil and gas.
A number of bills were introduced to address the problem and two of the bills we supported advanced through committee. Unfortunately, neither passed the full Legislature.
What’s next? We will continue to press for a legislative solution. In the meantime, we will appeal to the Governor to allocate emergency funding to address the staffing crisis.
Water Quality Standards
The revised water quality standards rule quickly advanced through the Legislature and was signed into law by the Governor in February.
It’s been a 5-year slog to push the state to update human health protections within our water quality standards. Our persistent involvement, and your voices, were successful in establishing stronger criteria for 30 toxic chemicals. This would not have happen without your advocacy!
But it’s not all good news, 5 toxins limits were relaxed and a new process for weakening limits on a case-by-case basis was created.
Taxpayer Funded Mining Insurance Company
Angie Rosser, WV Rivers executive director, provide comments during a public hearing on SB 1.
The Legislature is beginning to acknowledge the state is at great risk in making sure mining reclamation liabilities are covered. However, SB 1 does not address the root of the structural problems that puts taxpayers potentially on the hook for coal companies that walk away from their reclamation responsibilities.
Instead, SB 1 puts $50 million (and potentially much more) of taxpayer money into a new private company set up to insure the highest risk coal companies. The bill passed and is headed to the Governor’s desk. We believe SB 1 is unwise policy; read our comments here.
Tracking Water Policy: Bills We’re Watching
To keep up-to-date on all of our policy priorities, fact sheets and easy actions head over to our water policy webpage, and make sure you follow us on Facebook and Twitter for breaking news.
- SB 279 – the Water Quality Standards Rule. Completed legislation. Read more in the Charleston Gazette-Mail.
- SB 4 – Repealing ban on construction of nuclear power plants.
- HB 4003 – Relating generally to commercial benefit of substances removed from waters of the state by the treatment of mine drainage.
- HB 4758 – Relating to a database to track reclamation liabilities in the WVDEP special reclamation program.
- HB 4408 – Relating to contracts for construction of recreational facilities in state parks and forests.
- SB 1 – Creating Mining Mutual Insurance Company.
- SB 613 Establishing reliable funding for DEP Office of Oil and Gas.
- HB 2598 – Altering the definition of an above ground storage tank.
- SB 481 – Relating to Adopt-A-Stream Program.
- SB 480 – Relating to DEP Office of Oil and Gas.
- HB 4040 – Creating the WV Energy Efficiency Jobs Creation Act.
- HB 2812 – Local Energy Efficiency Partnership Act.
- HB 2287 – Providing for solar energy production on formerly mined land.
- HB 2725 – Relating to funding for the DEP Office of Oil and Gas.
- HB 4039 – Allowing increased civil administrative penalties to be promulgated by legislative rules of by the Department of Environmental Protection.
- HB 4055 – Clean Drinking Water Act of 2022.
- HJR 12 – Natural Resources and the Public Estate Amendment.
- HB 2980 – Amend Groundwater Protection Act to cover Karst Terrain.