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Bill For Air, Water Quality Rules Heads To Full House

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The House Judiciary committee passed a rules bundle Tuesday afternoon, revamping air and water quality rules for the state.

The 10 rules will arrive as one bill in the full House of Delegates with a favorable recommendation from the committee for passage.

Among those rules is 47 CSR 02 for water quality standards, which was the subject of a public hearing Monday involving more than 30 participants. Most speakers opposed this legislation.

This water quality rule adopts roughly 24 out of 94 recommendations for pollutants that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency first made in 2015.

Nearly half of those 24 rules strengthen regulation. The other half weaken it.

“We are a science-based organization whenever possible, particularly with water quality standards,” said Scott Mandirola, deputy cabinet secretary for the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, in testimony to the House Judiciary committee.

According to Mandirola, the recommended new rule for water quality standards involved input from an advisory group of stakeholders, including the West Virginia Manufacturers Association and the West Virginia Rivers Coalition.

That advisory group is still evaluating more than 30 other recommendations from the EPA that the Legislature will consider during a different session.

Mandirola also told committee members Tuesday that the EPA gets the final say on whether West Virginia can implement these rules, should the full Legislature pass the bill into law.

“They're going to go through what we proposed, what we ended with and why, and we've got to justify how we went through that process scientifically,” Mandirola said. “If they don't approve of our changes, those changes do not go into effect, even though they may be state law.”

Parts of this rule for water quality standards would allow for more carcinogens, which either cause cancer or are suspected of causing cancer, in West Virginia waterways.

House Judiciary committee members rejected a request from Del. Chad Lovejoy, D-Cabell, to scrap those recommendations and stick to the state’s existing, more stringent regulation of carcinogens.

“I don't think that it's good policy to take affirmative action to increase the amount of carcinogens,” Lovejoy said.

Republicans who opposed Lovejoy’s amendment said they believed the process that was used to come up with these rules was rooted in science.

“The EPA still has to adopt our rules,” said Del. Steve Westfall, R-Jackson. “No matter what’s in this bill or how it passes, if they don’t like it, they don’t approve it and we have to go back.”

The bundle’s nine other rules update wastewater regulation and air quality standards.

The legislation moves onto the full House of Delegates next, where lawmakers will consider sending the bundle to the Senate.

Emily Allen is a Report for America corps member.


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