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Friday afternoon the House Judiciary Committee approved without amendment the proposed rule that would restore 72 miles of the Kanawha River to Category A status. This is the first step in making those 72 miles of river eligible for use as public drinking water after conventional treatment. The measure passed with Del. Mike Azinger from Wood County as the only dissenting vote.
A dangerous amendment supported by the West Virginia Manufacturers’ Association was threatened that would have applied Category A status only within a half mile of a proposed intake, and only at the time the application for that intake was submitted to the Bureau of Public Health. Thankfully this amendment was not offered for consideration by any member of the committee, allowing for smooth passage of the measure that will reduce the allowable limits of carcinogens and other pollutants discharged into the Kanawha River.
Del. Mike Azinger called West Virginia American Water President Jeff McIntyre to answer questions before the committee on his company’s intentions of locating a secondary intake on the Kanawha River and its associated costs. Despite Del. Azinger’s apparent intention of using the water company to bolster his argument in opposition to the designation, the evidence provided by the water company was one of the most compelling arguments for approval of the rule. Jeff McIntyre, through questions from several delegates including Del. Larry Rowe from Kanawha County, stated clearly that without Category A protections a secondary intake would cost an additional $100 Million.
Jeff McIntyre made it clear that the estimates of $150 million for a secondary intake upstream of Belle that is currently in Category A water vs. $50 million at a location in downtown Charleston were contingent on the fact that no other major risks were identified in their current evaluation that is underway.
Del. Barbara Fleischauer made the most logical and compelling argument before passage of the measure. When comments were made about the potential cost to industry of Category A, Del. Fleischauer eloquently pointed out that preventing what 300,000 people went through without water last year, and preventing more people from leaving the state because of what happened last year, was why the rule was important.
Del. Tom Fast from Fayette County, who has been highly critical of any new regulation or rule thus far this year, cast his vote in favor of the measure noting that he had heard concerns that some industry on the river would be adversely affected and that it would cost them tens of millions of dollars; however, when he requested more information that information could not provided.
Kanawha County Republicans and Democrats should be commended for their leadership in approving Category A protections on the Kanawha, and we are pleased to see the bi-partisan momentum for passage of the measure as it heads to house floor, Senate Judiciary, and the full senate.