By KEN WARD JR.
A controversial bill that could allow increased pollution discharges into West Virginia’s rivers and streams moved one step closer to passage late Monday night, as senators rejected amendments that would have limited the legislation’s scope.
House Bill 2506 is expected to be up for third reading — passage stage — today on the Senate floor.
Shortly before 10 p.m. Monday, the Senate voted down efforts by Sens. Ron Miller, D-Greenbrier, and Mike Romano, D-Harrison, to narrow the changes in how the state calculates pollution permit discharge limits and reduce the ability of the state Department of Environmental Protection to broadly approve new, overlapping pollution dilution “mixing zones” for different facilities.
Eventual passage of the bill would be a major victory for various business and industry groups, especially the West Virginia Manufacturers Association, which has periodically pushed for the state to stop using a more protective low-flow stream flow measurement and switch to an average flow called “harmonic mean” when writing permits.
Miller sought to amend the bill to apply the change to harmonic mean only to cancer-causing chemicals, and not for non-carcinogens. Miller said the average flow was more appropriate for cancer-causing chemicals, which affect humans over a long exposure period, but not for non-carcinogens, which can produce more short-term effects.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Trump, R-Morgan, countered that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last year urged the DEP to use harmonic mean for both types of chemicals. Trump did not mention — and DEP officials have avoided explaining clearly to lawmakers — that the DEP under the previous administration had rejected that EPA recommendation, and proposed continuing to use a low-flow measurement for non-carcinogens. Senators voted down the amendment 18-11, with five senators absent.
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