2017 Legislative Tracking
HB 2506 – Harmonic Mean & Overlapping Mixing Zones
This bill weakens drinking water protections by allowing overlapping waste discharge zones and changing the method of calculating water available in a stream for the purpose of issuing an NPDES permit.
Harmonic Mean – Currently, the West Virginia Dept. of Environmental Protection uses a conservative low-flow model called "7Q10" for the purpose of calculating how much water is in a stream, and therefore, how much pollution can be discharged without exceeding drinking water quality standards. The 7Q10 model takes the average flow from the lowest 7 days over the preceding 10 years, hence 7Q10. Harmonic mean, on the other hand, is simply a type of average. On the streams which we have reviewed across the state, the difference between 7Q10 and Harmonic Mean is that Harmonic Mean is anywhere from 4x to 54x higher than 7Q10. By assuming the water level is so much higher, the permitted discharges could be much higher.
Industry claims they don't need to be able to discharge more pollution, but they just need to be able "prove they aren't exceeding drinking water quality standards." But to paraphrase one of the chief lobbyists for this bill from the West Virginia Manufacturers Association, this camel's nose will be in the tent from here on in. Permit levels will be less conservative and may not reflect reality in periods of low-flow.
Furthermore, proponents claim that surrounding states already do this. This is false. While some surrounding states use harmonic mean for carcinogenic pollutants, they follow historic EPA guidance to use a low-flow model for calculating allowable discharges of non-carcinogenic pollutants with may have more acute short-term impacts.
SB 687 – Coal Mining, Safety, & Environmental Regulation
This bill originally proposed massive rollbacks to mine safety, turning inspections into "compliance safety assistance visits" and removing common sense provisions such as making it a crime to tip off an operator to expect an inspection. The bill was reworked and a new bill was originated out of the Senate Energy, Industry – and while the worst of the mine safety changes were taken back out – the attack on clean water remains.
HB 2811 – Aboveground Storage Tanks
Initially the bill proposed to remove 29,000 oil and gas related tanks from all registration, signage requirements, and public notice. An amendment retained most these provisions, even for exempted tanks.