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Despite opposition, House advances bill to bar community air monitoring data in 3rd-party lawsuits

By Mike Tony, Charleston Gazette-Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Suzanne King of Kanawha City regularly wipes away coal dust that penetrates screens and settles on her porch furniture.

Living near tracks on which trains — often over 100 cars long — transport coal and chemicals, King said she feels more prepared to protect her health when air quality is poor since getting a monitor through PurpleAir, an air-monitoring company, and gaining access to real-time air quality monitoring the company provides on its website.

“We all, no matter where we live, should have comprehensive access to data and for that data to be used for the public good,” King said.

King delivered testimony during a public hearing Friday on an industry-crafted bill that has advanced in the House of Delegates that would prohibit data from community air monitoring programs from being used as evidence by the state Department of Environmental Protection or by any person to:

  • Issue a penalty or notice of violation against an owner or operator of a stationary source, or
  • Bring an administrative, regulatory, judicial enforcement action or third-party lawsuit or proceeding against the owner or operator of a stationary source

Stationary sources of air pollution include factories, power plants, refineries and boilers.

Speakers at Friday’s hearing in the House of Delegates chamber were overwhelmingly opposed to the bill, House Bill 5018, which the House Energy and Manufacturing Committee advanced to the full House Tuesday.

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