Jack Walker Published

Community Air Monitoring Data Would Be Inadmissible In Proceedings Under House Bill

Delegate Mark Zatezalo delivers remarks on the House floor, holding a microphone in his right hand and gesturing with his left hand. Behind him, fellow members of the House of Delegates sit at their desks, blurred in the photo.
Pictured here in the 2022 West Virginia Legislative session, Del. Mark Zatezalo, R-Hancock, delivers remarks on the House of Delegates floor.
Perry Bennett/WV Legislative Photography

A bill that received committee support in the West Virginia House of Delegates Tuesday would prevent publicly sourced air pollution data from being used in lawsuits and regulatory proceedings.

House Bill 5018 was drafted in response to the rise of community air monitoring in West Virginia. This refers to pollution data collected by members of the public, as opposed to governmental agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Proponents of the bill said it would ensure that air pollution data used in legal or regulatory proceedings meet standards set by accredited state and federal agencies.

But, at a meeting of the House Committee on Energy and Manufacturing, some lawmakers voiced concerns that the legislation would limit residents’ abilities to identify and substantiate air pollution concerns.

“I’m not a massive fan of this bill,” said Del. Kayla Young, D-Kanawha.

“I think more community air monitoring is a good thing, not a bad thing,” she continued. “We shouldn’t be hurting our citizens and getting rid of transparency. So, I’m a no on this one.”

Young said that lawmakers have not done enough to invest in air monitoring, despite recent EPA funding allocated to the state for these projects.

Still, the bill received support from a majority of committee members, who referred it back to the House with the recommendation that it be passed.

“Community monitoring is not forbidden by this bill at all,” said Del. Mark Zatezalo, R-Hancock, who sponsored the bill. Zatezalo added that the pending legislation would simply set a standard for what quality of data is admissible to official proceedings.

“Good data and better, supportable data is important for ongoing analysis,” he said. “I have a hard time trying to figure out why that is a big, big problem.”