CHARLESTON, W.Va.— West Virginia lawmakers are considering a bill that would ban the use of citizen air monitoring data for regulatory action—thwarting the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection’s ability to effectively address air pollution in the state.
If passed, House Bill 5018 would prohibit state environmental regulators from using scientifically valid data collected by community air monitoring programs to hold polluting industries accountable through the issuance of penalties, notices of violations, or any administrative, regulatory, judicial enforcement or third-party lawsuit.
“Without citizens to assist the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection in air quality monitoring efforts, polluting industries will be left to self-regulate in parts of the state without the DEP’s coverage,” said Olivia Miller, program director of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy.
DEP’s current air quality monitoring network lacks coverage in some of the most highly polluted areas of West Virginia. The network only covers 12 of West Virginia’s 55 counties, none of which are in the state’s southern coalfield counties. The network also does not monitor for hazardous air pollutants like benzene, ethyl benzene or toluene from gas well operations.
“Our legislators should encourage the use of citizen air monitoring to supplement data gathered by government agencies, especially if it conforms with existing Environmental Protection Agency standards,” Miller said. “We deserve to be able to protect ourselves, our families, and our neighbors from toxic pollutants that poison us and the planet.”
The bill advanced to the full House of Delegates Tuesday, Jan. 31 and a public hearing is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 2 at 9 a.m. in the House Chamber at the WV State Capitol. The public is encouraged to attend in person. If you wish to speak on the proposed bill, registration will begin at 8:30 a.m.
First coming together in 1967, the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy is one of the state’s oldest environmental activist organizations. For more than five decades, WVHC has dedicated itself to protecting the air, water, forests, streams, and mountains of West Virginia, as well as the health and welfare of the people living or recreating there. Visit wvhighlands.org for more information.