WV-DEP & Legislators are Gutting our Water Protection Laws

by Duane Nichols on February 28, 2015

Will you let this happen (again & again)?

It’s Not Water Under the Bridge

Editorial, Morgantown Dominion Post, February 27, 2015

You better believe history has a way of repeating itself. Take for instance our state leaders, and agencies, long history of allowing industry to have its way with our natural resources.

Never mind the collateral damage done to our environment, especially our water resources. At least it was that way until March 8, 2014, or so we thought.

That was the date when the state Legislature unanimously approved Senate Bill 373 in response to a massive chemical spill into the Elk River. That spill contaminated the water supply of 300,000 state residents in a nine-county region resulting in a tap water ban for nearly a week. But soon after that legislation was passed, some warned that protecting our water does not end with passing a bill.

Industry never sleeps and would keep the pressure on government through its well-financed lobby. As one WVU law professor put it at the time, “While you’re not paying attention, they are.” Guess what? We have not been paying attention.

This week the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously advanced legislation to the Senate floor that basically guts SB 373. Though the new legislation — Senate Bill 423 — still requires all above-ground storage tanks to be registered with the state, it drops practically all regulation for about 36,000 of those 48,000 tanks.

The new bill purportedly targets tanks in zones of critical concern and a newly defined zone of peripheral concern to public water intakes, rather than protecting groundwater in general.

What that means is, if you rely on a private groundwater well or other such water supply you had better hope there are no above-ground storage tanks nearby. It also drastically reshapes how many industries need to apply for permits, allowing them to opt out of the separate permit process for their storage tanks if they already fall under some other regulatory tool.

Some have estimated that as a result of this provision, fewer than 100 tanks will be subject to the regular strict inspections.

The state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) secretary was quick to point out recently that the bill the governor sought last year — SB 417 — was not as stringent as the one lawmakers ultimately passed. That was the legislation whose opening paragraphs talked about protecting industry, rather than our water resources. It was the one that died a quiet death once the public got a look at it and started to make some noise.

Something tells us the public needs to start making some more noise again — at SB 423. And if they don’t hear you now, you can always get their attention at the ballot box on November 8, 2016.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

A P Mama March 1, 2015 at 8:34 am

Well said editorial in the Morgantown Dominion Post.

Thanks to the editors of DP for bringing this to the public’s attention!



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