Emily Allen Published

Bill For Air, Water Quality Rules Clears Senate Judiciary Committee

Deputy Secretary Scott Mandirola speaks to House Bill 2382 during a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting.

A bill moving forward in the Senate would lessen some of the state’s criteria for limiting pollutants in West Virginia waterways.

House Bill 2382 is a rules bundle, updating several air-and-water-quality rules that the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection enforces with recommendations from the federal government.

One of these rules, dealing with water quality, would adopt 24 of 94 recommended updates that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency made in 2015, all relating to the regulation of certain pollutants in waterways.

In testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee Monday, DEP Deputy Secretary Scott Mandirola said the department was working monthly with stakeholders to consider adopting another 32 of these recommendations from the federal government.

States are allowed to adopt EPA recommendations and amend them using certain scientific standards. Mandirola said West Virginia used “one-in-a-million” cancer risk and federal fish consumption standards, in reworking the 24 new criteria included in House Bill 2382.

About half of the 24 updates would result in less regulation of water pollutants than West Virginia already has in place.

“Any time you increase exposure to toxins and carcinogens, you’re increasing risk to public health,” said Angie Rosser, executive director of the West Virginia Rivers Coalition. Several members of that group spoke against the bill during a public hearing in February.

Rosser also said that her group is frustrated that the rules bundle excludes the 32 updates the DEP is still considering. All 56 updates were first proposed to the state Legislature in 2019.

The state Senate ordered the DEP to study the rules more after objections from some of the industries that the department regulates.

Mandirola said Monday that the 24 updates being introduced this year simply had the most consensus around them. He also said that none of the updates in House Bill 2382 would result in changes to West Virginia’s adherence to the Clean Water Act.

Ohio and Pennsylvania have adopted their own versions of all 94 of the recommended criteria from the EPA, according to testimony from Mandirola.

If this rules bundle passes the Senate, already having cleared the House of Delegates, the EPA still has to approve all updates before the DEP can enforce them.

Emily Allen is a Report for America corps member.