This week, both HB 2811 and HB 2506 were passed by the West Virginia Legislature, and await the Governor’s signature Both bills chip away at protections on our drinking water, placing industry over concerns for public health.
Sign the petition, and ask Governor Justice to veto HB 2506. Ask him to stand up for water and the health of all West Virginians.
The war on water continues.
SB 687, passed on Wednesday by the Senate, would dramatically undermine protections for streams across the state by changing West Virginia’s narrative water quality standards. Bottom line, SB 687 makes it easier for the coal industry to get away with pollution that kills life in streams. This bill will be before the House this week.
On Saturday, the Senate passed HB 2811. Although the tank bill had been amended to retain crucial transparency provisions, it still removes another piece of the protections created in the original Aboveground Storage Tank Act (ASTA) by exempting oil and gas industry tanks in the Zone of Peripheral Concern from substantive regulation. Considering that the effectiveness of the ASTA has already been reduced by the generous exemptions created by SB 423 in 2015, it is hard to see how we can afford to make any further concessions to industry. The three Senators who remained committed to maintaining the protections of the ASTA were Jeffries (D- Putnam), Palumbo (D-Kanawha) and Unger (D-Berkeley).
On Tuesday HB 2506 passed 23 to 10, with one member absent. Interestingly, the vote was not along party lines, with Senator Plymale (D-Wayne) voting for the bill, while Senators Mann (R-Monroe) and Sypolt (R-Preston) voted against. Two very reasonable amendments to improve the bill were offered during Monday night’s session by Senators Miller (D-Greenbrier) and Romano (D-Harrison), but were unfortunately not adopted.
The bill therefore passed unamended, with streamflow models that are weaker than those used by surrounding states, the potential for greater emissions of toxic pollutants into West Virginia’s waterways and new possible chemical interactions from overlapping mixing zones.
Both HB 2811 and HB 2506 are now awaiting the Governor’s signature in order to become law. Please urge Governor Justice to oppose these harmful bills.
Lastly, SB 687 passed the Senate on Wednesday. Most of this bill deals with mine safety, and for that reason some democratic Senators we spoke to felt obligated to support the bill despite misgivings about water quality provisions. This bill would change biological monitoring of streams by striking the diverse and balanced species composition criteria. The effect would be to remove benthic macroinvertebrates as a focus for stream monitoring, despite the fact that benthic macroinvertebrates are a widely accepted, accurate and cost-effective means of assessing stream health.
Senator Miller offered an amendment that would have ensured that monitoring of aquatic life remained at its current levels, a prudent choice which was supported by Senator Beach (D-Monongalia), but the amendment was rejected on a voice vote. We would like to thank Senator Miller for his amendment, and Senators Beach and Romano for their opposition to this bill.
SB 687 will now cross to the House, where we will once again fight against any negative changes to stream monitoring.
What do we have when we put these bills together? Greater risk of accidental spills, more pollution allowed in our streams, previously disallowed chemical interactions, and a time-tested method removed from DEP’s toolbox for monitoring and enforcement. The cumulative effects of these bills represents an unacceptable step backwards for West Virginia’s waterways. When so many rivers and streams are still in the process of recovering from the legacy of past pollution, we cannot afford to risk the progress we’ve made.
Additionally, it’s important to take time to thank our Delegates who voted in favor of protecting our water and express our disappointment in those who voted to allow more cancer-causing chemicals into our creeks and rivers!
Please, send a letter now and ask your friends and family to do the same.
by Laura Davidson
I’ve only lived in Charleston for the last three years, but I’ve been here long enough to know that something in the water isn’t right.
I grew up running around in the woods – camping in the forest and swimming in the creek. I was fearless. I think that fearlessness is part of being young. I never gave a second thought about jumping into the water. Now? No way.
Of course the odor was stronger directly after the disastrous chemical spill by Freedom Industries that leaked 10,000 gallons of MCHM into the Elk River – but, still the smell is there. It’s in the air. It’s in the water. It’s in the land.
Speak to any nose and throat doctor and they will tell you – more people in West Virginia, and a higher number still who live in the Kanawha Valley, suffer from chronic upper respiratory ailments. This is not new information.
HB 2506, HB 2811 and now SB 687 are nothing more than attempts to give industry an unnecessary break from much needed regulation. During the Senate Judiciary Committee meeting on HB 2811 a few weeks ago, we heard testimony from a DEP official regarding a chemical tank leak that contaminated water 2.1 miles downstream from a water intake. The DEP have been working on cleaning up that spill, which included crude oil and brine, for over seven months and the seepage has not been abated. Last week, there were two coal slurry pipe leaks in Boone County, 17 miles upstream from Lincoln County Public Service District’s drinking water intake. The list goes on.
We have got to get serious about protecting our natural resources. We have to safeguard our water and stop intentionally poisoning our land, and poisoning our people.
What will it take for our Legislature to act in the best interests of the people? How can you put a price tag on quality of life? We need our lawmakers to care more about the health of our people, and less about outside industry interests.
It is not enough to pay lip service to these issues. If you’re ready for change, I encourage you to not just speak out – but start doing. There are tons of great organizations doing great things in West Virginia.
One organization in particular, Our Children Our Future, is working to find and train community members to organize locally and/or run for office. Our Children Our Future will host several community organizing and candidate training sessions throughout the state beginning in April. Sign up to attend one near you! If you want change in our community, start by being that change!
Looking for more ways to get involved?
Check out Protect WV.
There are only a few days left in the 2017 legislative session, and we need your help to keep the momentum going. Please stand by for more updates as we keep fighting for clean water and air quality.