"A year after a toxic leak contaminated drinking water for 300,000 residents, West Virginia lawmakers are considering a series of proposals that would weaken a new chemical tank safety law...and protect the coal industry from enforcement actions over violations of water quality standards."
A year after a toxic leak contaminated drinking water for 300,000 residents, West Virginia lawmakers are considering a series of proposals that would weaken a new chemical tank safety law, remove stronger pollution protections for streams across the state, and protect the coal industry from enforcement actions over violations of water quality standards.
Members of a coalition of citizen groups called the West Virginia Safe Water Roundtable held a news conference Monday at the Capitol to draw attention to their concerns and to urge lawmakers not to roll back the state’s clean water laws.
On Tuesday, one broad bill backed by the West Virginia Coal Association is up for passage in the Senate, and efforts to attach industry-backed amendments to a Department of Environmental Protection rules bill are expected in a House committee.
“It’s a critical time,” said Angie Rosser, executive director of the West Virginia Rivers Coalition.
Last week in the Senate, a committee began considering an amendment from the GOP-controlled majority that would not only remove the drinking water protections the DEP wants for the Kanwaha from the Senate version of the bill, but also end the DEP’s longstanding policy of enforcing the state’s so-called “Category A” drinking water standards on all rivers and streams across the state.
Meanwhile, the Senate is set during Tuesday’stoday’s floor session to consider passage of the “Coal Jobs and Safety Act” being promoted by the coal association as a way to make West Virginia’s mine operators more competitive as cheap natural gas, competition from other coal regions, the mining out of quality reserves and tougher federal environmental standards chip away at the local industry.
Among other things, the bill (SB 357) as aimed at stopping successful citizen suits brought over mining company violations of Clean Water Act standards where those standards were not specifically written into state DEP permits and prohibiting the DEP from incorporating those standards into future coal permits. It also includes a long-sought change the coal industry wants to West Virginia’s water quality limit for aluminum.
The legislation has come under criticism, though, from the United Mine Workers union, which says it also weakens safety standards for coal miners.