Update on Category A

Last week we told you about the DEP’s proposed rule change to restore “Category A” (drinking water) protection to a portion of the Kanawha River from Belle to the Kanawha’s confluence with the Ohio.  The rule has been introduced as S.B. 167 and H.B. 2289.

Currently, about 31,000 miles of West Virginia streams enjoy Category A protection.  This 72-mile stretch of the Kanawha is the only exception, having been exempted in the early 1980s.

Category A’s primary focus is on 56 water quality parameters that affect human health.  More than half are known or suspected carcinogens.

S.B. 167 was taken up by the Senate Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday.  We’d heard in advance that an unfavorable “committee amendment” would be added; in a nutshell, that amendment would have reversed the intent of the bill!  Fortunately, we’d gotten the word out and the room was nearly filled with clean water supporters! 🙂

DEP Secretary Randy Huffman made a persuasive argument for restoring the Kanawha’s Category A protection, telling committee members that Category A designation would not require a single industry currently located on that stretch of the Kanawha to treat their discharges any more stringently than they currently do.  He also told them that in the past ten years, no new industry that has located in West Virginia has expressed concern about meeting Category A requirements.

But Rebecca Randolph, President of the WV Manufacturers’ Association, made it clear to the committee that her group not only opposes Category A designation for the Kanawha, but plans to “push” removal of Category A designation for the 31,000 miles of WV streams that currently enjoy it.

Angie Rosser, Executive Director of the West Virginia Rivers Coalition, was allowed to address the committee, and in a somewhat dramatic moment she asked the clean water supporters in the room to stand.  No doubt this played a part in the committee’s decision to lay the bill over, but we expect to see it, along with the proposed amendment, on the committee’s agenda again this week.

The House version of the bill (2289) is on the Industry and Labor Committee’s agenda for 8:00 a.m. Tuesday morning.

How you can help:  Contact members of both committees and ask them to 1) restore Category A status to the Kanawha, and 2) continue Category A protection for streams statewide.  Contact information for members of the House Industry and Labor Committee is here, and for the Senate Natural Resources Committee it’s here.  Also:  it would really help if you could come be present in the room for the committee meetings!  Again, House I & L meets Monday at 8:00 a.m. in Room 215E.  We’ll let you know when we get a date/time for Senate NR, but it’ll probably be sometime Wednesday.

Read/download the WV Rivers Coalition’s Category A fact sheet here.

Read Ken Ward, Jr.’s account of Wednesday’s Natural Resources committee proceedings here.

Updated: September 23, 2015 — 11:38 am

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  1. Hooray for Randy Huffman. There is no economic reason to weaken our water standards and every humanitarian as well as economic reason to protect them. What business wants to locate in an area where its workers are afraid to drink the water?

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