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Coalition Calls For Lawmakers To Protect Water

posted Feb 9, 2015, 7:05 AM by David Lillard   [ updated Feb 9, 2015, 11:51 AM ]
 The West Virginia Safe Water Roundtable held a press conference today in Charelston in coordination with the Our Children Our Future Campaign to ensure the availability of clean and safe water to sustain life and a viable economy. The coalition recognizes the risk that recently introduced legislation poses to the State’s water supply and calls upon the WV Legislature to renew its commitment to protect the state’s most precious natural resource.

Just over one year after the Freedom Industries’ chemical leak that contaminated the water of 300,000 people, the West Virginia State Legislature is introducing several pieces of legislation that would severely weakenexisting water protections and leave us more vulnerable to events like the Elk River disaster. The most remarkable of these bills are HB 2574 and its companion, SB 423, which effectively guts SB 373, the bill unanimously passed last year to address threats to public drinking water supplies. Unbelievably, the leaky Freedom Industries tank itself would be exempt from regulations under this proposed legislation.

Other legislation introduced and amendments pending this session would actually increase the vulnerability of our water supply.  The West Virginia Manufacturers Association is pushing for amendments to a water quality standards rule (SB 167 / HB 2289) that would reject a proposal to protect the Kanawha River as a potential drinking water supply, as well as severely limit drinking water protections statewide.  Another example, SB 357 / HB 2566 – “Coal Jobs and Safety Act” would relieve coal companies from meeting water quality standards in their pollution permits and while putting coal miner safety at greater risk.  This act also drastically weakens the aluminum water quality standard. HB 2593 aims to declare the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers' proposed rule defining the "waters of the United States" unenforceable in the State of West Virginia. However, that bill wouldn’t matter if the West Virginia Senate had its way. It has passed SCR 8, urging the US EPA to withdraw and/or rescind its proposed definition of "waters of the United States".