Water Policy News: Seventh Update of the 2023 Session

Each week of the legislative session, we share an easy action for clean water, it only takes a few minutes and it is the most urgent call to action.

On Thursday, the PFAS Protection Act passed the Senate unanimously

Easy Action: Contact your Senators and thank them for their support of the PFAS Protection Act

Thank You Clean Water Advocates!

You did it! Your calls and emails led to the PFAS Protection Act becoming completed legislation – AMAZING!

What does this mean?

  • West Virginians will have more access to data about the presence of PFAS in their tap water.
  • Action plans will be developed to address public drinking water supplies contaminated by PFAS.
  • Industries will have to report their use of PFAS, and monitor their PFAS discharges.
  • We will know more about the sources of PFAS contamination in West Virginia so that we can take steps to reduce PFAS at its source instead of solely placing the burden of PFAS mitigation on water utilities and their ratepayers.
  • There is a mandatory obligation for the state to pursue limits on PFAS discharges once EPA issues its recommended criteria.
  • We will need to follow implementation of this bill so that it maximizes opportunities to ensure safe drinking water for all West Virginians.

The PFAS Protection Act, HB 3189passed unanimously in the Senate Government Organization Committee and on the Senate Floor.

Call to Action: Please thank your Senators for their support!

The bill now goes to the Governor’s desk for signature. Thank you for all of your help in the passage of this bill, we wouldn’t be successful if it weren’t for folks like you across the state making sure legislators know this is an important issue to their constituents. Now we will have to make sure the work gets done, be assured we will be watching out for you!

DEP Set to Get Funding for More Inspectors

More good news – HB 3110, to increase funding to DEP’s Office of Oil and Gas, is also on its way to complete its legislative journey. At the time of this update, it is on the Senate’s calendar to be voted on for passage.

Though we were disappointed the bill still doesn’t provide nearly enough funding to provide adequate oversight of the oil and gas industry in West Virginia, it’s an important first step to begin to address DEP’s staffing crisis.

The bill expects to enable DEP to staff approximately 10 additional oil and gas inspectors, taking their fleet to 20 inspectors overseeing more than 75,000 wells and 20,000 tanks across the state. This still leaves us at only around half of the oversight capacity of PA and OH. We will have to keep monitoring and responding to the need for more inspectors.

Still, we are relieved the Legislature finally took some action after we worked for 3 years to bring attention to this issue. Thanks again to everyone who let their legislators know West Virginians need and deserve better state oversight of the oil and gas industry to protect public health and our environment. Good work everyone!

Tracking Expansion of Off-Road Vehicle Trails on Public Lands

As of time of publication of this update, we are still watching for developments related to SB 468, which would extend ATV/ORV use within Cabwaylingo State Forest, and allow DNR to build ATV/ORV connector trails into state parks and forests from motorized trail systems like the Hatfield-McCoy Trails.

Thanks to your actions, a House floor amendment last Saturday to prohibit further ATV/ORV trail development in state parks and forests passed unanimously on a voice vote. Now the Senate still has to decide whether to agree with the House’s amendment, or to adopt a pending floor amendment filed by Senator Maynard to strip out the expansion prohibition.

It looks like final resolution on this legislation will come down to the wire on the last day of the regular session, which is Saturday, March 11. We will be paying close attention right up until midnight Saturday and echoing many of your messages to legislators: protect our public lands! It’s not too late to let your Delegate and Senators know that you do not want to see our state public lands opened up to ATV/ORV use.

Shout Out to the E-Council Lobby Team

We’re grateful each year to be able to join forces with members of the WV Environmental Council to staff full-time lobbyists for the regular session, and we had an all-star team this year who helped get clean water priorities over the finish line. Lobbyists Lucia Valentine and Maria Russo were there day in and day out at the Capitol, with critical communications and planning support from Jillian Welsh.

They walked many miles on those marble floors to assist with getting our educational materials in the hands of legislators, and help us keep up with by-the-minute developments. We appreciate your utter stamina, commitment, and successes for a healthy environment for all to enjoy! Go team!

WV Rivers in Washington DC

While all of this was going on at the Statehouse, WV Rivers also continued its work on federal policy with recent visits to Capitol Hill. Our staff scientist, Jenna Dodson, led a group of West Virginians for “Bay Day on the Hill” as the state lead for the Choose Clean Water Coalition.

The group discussed appropriation requests for Chesapeake Bay restoration work that have local benefits for West Virginia’s local waters in the eastern part of the state.

Our public lands coordinator, Mike Jones, visited D.C. to meet with our Congressional delegation about the importance of protecting our headwaters in the Monongahela National Forest.

If you would like to learn more about either of these federal policy priorities, contact us at wvrivers@wvrivers.org / 304-637-7201.

Train Safety Front and Center Again

As we’re still working with partners on a regional response to the Norfolk Southern train derailment in East Palestine, we saw another derailment impacting the Ohio River Watershed – this time near Sandstone, WV. Local reporting related that a rock slide caused a CSX train to derail, with rail cars and diesel fuel spilling into and burning in the New River.

These all too frequent events sound the alarm for the need for better safety measures to prevent harm to our water supplies, rail workers and communities surrounding rail lines. We will be following this critical issue of rail safety and will keep you informed on any future actions to protect our rivers and streams from railway accidents.

Please Support our Policy Work

As we celebrate our policy successes at the Legislature, and acknowledge there still so much more work to be done, we recognize the fact that our advocacy is only able to be effective with your actions backing us up.

Thanks again to all who took time to contact decision-makers and all of you who have supported our work financially. Your donations help staff our science and policy team, strengthen our digital advocacy tools, and help us educate and mobilize the public and lawmakers alike.

And there’s no rest for the weary, our policy work continues year-round. Please help us replenish our advocacy funds by making a donation today – it means a lot and helps keep on keeping on! Thank you!

Click here to add your own text

Print Friendly, PDF & Email