Elk River Chemical Spill

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

State lawmakers have taken their first action to scale back a wide-ranging law safeguarding against chemical spills from aboveground tanks.

A January 2014 chemical spill that contaminated drinking water for 300,000 residents for days spurred the law.

A Senate committee passed an amended bill Tuesday to deregulate about 36,000 aboveground storage tanks from the new law.

At the legislature today, protestors brave the snow and cold at the Capitol to rally against a bill that scales back the state's prevailing wage. The head of law enforcement for the Division of Natural Resources tells a Senate committee the pay scale set in code for his officers is making it difficult to recruit qualified individuals. And a special report about the city of Huntington's on going fight against drugs on The Legislature Today.

A judge is rescheduling the trial for former executives facing charges for a massive chemical spill last year.

In U.S. District Court in Charleston on Wednesday, Judge Thomas Johnston moved back the trial for Freedom Industries officials to Oct. 6. The trial had been scheduled for March 10.

The change would likely only apply to ex-Freedom presidents Gary Southern and Dennis Farrell. Also Wednesday, federal prosecutors asked the court to schedule plea hearings for the company, Charles Herzing, William Tis and two lower-level employees.

  At the legislature today, legislation limiting abortions is on its way to the Senate after the House passed the bill overwhelmingly today.  Uber, the international car service, wants to do business in West Virginia, but legislators have concerns.  And we’ll talk with the Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection about the bill to roll back the aboveground storage tank law on The Legislature Today.

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Groups lobbying for strong regulations to protect that state’s water resources gathered at the Capitol Monday to tell lawmakers not to pass a bill they say will gut the above ground storage tank legislation passed last year.

The West Virginia Safe Water Roundtable, comprised of multiple citizen action groups and affiliated with the Our Children, Our Future Campaign, spoke out against House Bill 2574.

At the legislature today, the House approves a bill that inserts the legislature into the state Department of Environmental Protection’s plans to comply with US EPA carbon emission standards. That measure now goes to the senate where passage is expected. And a year after the Kanawha Valley water crisis, things are back to normal for the 300,000 West Virginians affected, but some residents of McDowell County are just getting clean water after years without it. A special report on water and more coming up on The Legislature Today.

At the legislature today, the bill to repeal the prevailing wage law isn’t on the senate floor yet, but an attempt to stop it from coming to the floor sparked debate about the measure.  In the house today, delegates adopted an amendment that would require the Governor to appoint two members of the West Virginia Board of Education that have school age children.  These stories and we’ll meet the Majority Leaders on The Legislature Today.

Freedom Industries
Aaron Payne / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

  Four former Freedom Industries executives are scheduled to be arraigned on a superseding indictment stemming from a chemical spill last January that turned off the water tap to 300,000 people.

The superseding indictment contains a new charge against former Freedom President Gary Southern stemming from the company's bankruptcy and restates the original charges against him and three other former executives.

Dave Mistich / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

State environmental regulators say the highest-risk aboveground storage tanks could face a $375 annual fee in a law to protect water supplies.

Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Randy Huffman made the comments to a state Senate budget panel Monday. The fees aren't finalized.

Out of more than 48,000 tanks registered under the law, Huffman said almost 3,800 near a water supply and 3,700 others considered high-risk could face the $375 annual per-tank fee.

WOWK

  Former Freedom Industries President Gary Southern faces a new federal fraud charge stemming from the company's bankruptcy.

A federal grand jury in Beckley, West Virginia, handed up a superseding indictment on Wednesday against Southern and three other former Freedom executives. The indictment charges Southern with a new count of fraud by interstate commercial carrier and restates the charges in the original indictment.

On this episode of West Virginia Morning, We bring you our fifth and final installment of our series Water in the Coalfields and our mountain stage song of the week.

One this episode of West Virginia Morning, Governor Tomblin emphasized reaching across the aisle and moving the state forward last night during his state of the state address. And we continue our series on water quality.

On West Virginia Morning, incoming legislative leaders tell us what they would like to hear from Governor Tomblin in his State of the State address tonight. And our water quality series continues with a look at the health effects of polluted water.

On West Virginia Morning, Revenue Secretary Bob Kiss gives reporters an overview of the state’s budget challenges and Jessica Lilly continues her series of reports about water quality in southern West Virginia. 

On West Virginia Morning, lawmakers are discussing the price of gasoline in the state.  And Jessica Lilly begins a series of reports about water quality in southern West Virginia.

Liz McCormick / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

A protest featuring giant puppets was held in front of the Kanawha County Public Library yesterday, commemorating the January 9th chemical spill one year ago.

West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources

As soon as he was made aware of the Freedom Industries' chemical spill and the tap water use ban, Dr. Rahul Gupta said his main concern was the health and safety of the citizens in the affected area.

In January of 2014, Gupta was serving as the Executive Director of the Kanawha Charleston Health Department, a position he held since 2009, and was very vocal when responding to all of the possible health concerns related to the spill.

Dave Mistich / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

After the chemical leak from the Freedom Industries site was discovered, some blame was quickly placed on the state Department of Environmental Protection for not properly regulating the tanks. But soon enough, both the public and state lawmakers found out the DEP had no authority over the inspection of those tanks.

That quickly changed as the 2014 legislative session progressed, passing a law to create a registration and inspection program.

Friday marks one year since a chemical tainted the drinking water supply for 300,000 people in and around Charleston, leaving some without usable water for as many as ten days. State lawmakers immediately took action to regulate aboveground storage tanks like the one responsible for the contamination, but the regulatory effort is on going.

Mike Youngren / Presidio Studios in Lewisburg

Mike Youngren has lived in Charleston for the last 20 years. A West Virginia Public Broadcasting alum, Youngren pursued filmmaking after retiring. When the January 9th chemical leak happened, Youngren decided the problem was widespread enough for people to stop to pay attention to what he had to say. With this in mind, he decided to develop his documentary, Elk River Blues.

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