Clean Water: The People Speak as WV Legislators Decline Hearings

Citizen Groups Hold ‘Public Hearing’ on Abovegrouind Storage Tank Bill

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Today citizens from across the state took part in a People’s Public Hearing on HB 2598, a bill that would weaken regulations on Aboveground Storage Tanks. 

“This bill pulls us backwards in protecting our water, and people are very concerned. We hope that our lawmakers understand the gravity of this policy decision for public health.” — Executive Director Angie Rosser of the West Virginia Rivers Coalition

This bill would further rollback protections passed in the wake of 2014’s Freedom Industries chemical spill that poisoned the water of 300,000 West Virginians.

While the bill passed out of the House Energy & Manufacturing Committee on Tuesday on a voice vote and with no amendments, requests for a public hearing to discuss it were denied. The bill heads now to the House Health and Human Resources Committee whose chairman has also denied requests for a public hearing. Today’s People’s Public Hearing, put together in response to these denials, was open to everyone and all West Virginia legislators were invited. Dozens of concerned citizens spoke out against HB 2598. No one opposed the bill.

A strong bill was passed in response to the 2014 spill, but much of its regulatory might has been rolled back. This year’s bill would further weaken protections by exempting certain oil and gas tanks that are closest to public drinking water intakes. If this bill passes, over 1,000 tanks in 27 counties would become unregulated. Identical legislation was introduced in 2020 but failed to pass.

“This bill pulls us backwards in protecting our water, and people are very concerned,” said Angie Rosser, executive director of the West Virginia Rivers Coalition. “We hope that our lawmakers understand the gravity of this policy decision for public health. We urge them – and everyone – to take a hard look at who stands to benefit and who will pay the price when we reduce protections for our drinking water supplies.”

“West Virginians deserve access to safe drinking water and expect our legislators to make it a priority. While this bill has been a priority of polluting industries in the state for years, implementing it does little to attract new businesses and families to the state while causing harmful health outcomes for those of us who already live here,” stated Linda Frame, president of the West Virginia Environmental Council. “It is unconscionable that our leaders would forget 2014 and the Freedom Industry disaster and try to pass these bills, especially during a legislative session when public access to the Capitol is limited due to COVID-19 safety concerns.”

For more background information on the HB 2598 and today’s People’s Public Hearing:

HB 2598 information packet

Transcript of today’s People’s Public Hearing

Video of today’s People’s Public Hearing

Also shared with participants of today’s hearing was an announcement that the House Judiciary Committee will be holding a public hearing on another bill proposing to rollback drinking water protections, HB 2389, on Monday, March 1 at 9:00am. HB 2389 proposes weakening certain human health criteria within our state water quality standards. More information about the bill here. Members of the public can register to participate in the public hearing virtually by calling the House Judiciary today from 3:00 – 4:00 PM at 304-340-3252.

Information needed: Name, e-mail address, the entity you represent, whether you support or are opposed to the legislation, and phone number.

The Zoomlink for the hearing will be posted on the House Committee on the Judiciary legislature webpage prior to 9:00 AM Monday, March 1, 2021.

Courtesy Submission. The Appalachian Chronicle is a publication of Grassroots Appalachia LLC.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s