The Sludge Safety Project lobbied each month at the interims leading up to the 2010 session. These sustained lobbying efforts enabled us to hit-the-ground-running in 2010 with new bills and new legislative sponsors.
We introduced bills banning coal slurry in both the House and Senate with substantially more sponsors than the year before. Both bills were referred to the Environmental Subcommittees and were never advanced by those Committee Chairmen. Both Committee Chairmen said they did not want to do anything until they heard the final results of the SCR-15 study from the DHHR.
Negotiations with the WV Coal Association
While we waited on the DHHR, SSP began a series of confidential negotiation meetings with the WV Coal Association and some of our legislative allies including Senator Jeff Kessler and Delegate Mike Manypenny. Over the course of a month, we met privately four times with the WV Coal Association to educate them on the feasibility of switching away from wet coal processing techniques (reducing or eliminating slurry production at coal preparation plants) and the technology that is available to create alternative slurry disposal methods. During these meetings, the WV Coal Association informed us that they knew that "the end is near" for slurry injections. They were primarily interested in finding out whether the industry could gain tax support to help alleviate the capitol costs that would be associated with putting in the new alternative slurry technology. This was the first time that the community and the industry had sat down together in a series of meetings to try to determine a feasible solution to transition away from slurry injections and impoundments.
An Interim Bill to Ban Slurry Injections
During the interims following the 2010 session, SSP continued monthly lobbying efforts with community members and primarily focused on crafting a bill to introduce during the Interim Session to ban slurry injections.
We introduced a bill before the Joint Interim Judicial Committee to ban slurry injections and provide a tax incentive for the industry to implement next coal processing technologies.
This bill was passed by the Interim Committee with a recommendation that the full legislature pass it during the 2011 session! This was an exciting event for SSP!
Results from the DHHR Study
In August 2010, the DHHR finally released their findings before the legislature, concluding the SCR-15 study nearly four years after it had begun. This study took twice as long as the Legislature had intended and cost the state $250,000. The DHHR found that the DEP had not collected enough data during its portion of the study to enable the DHHR to make a ruling about the public health safety of underground slurry injections. The DHHR could not state definitively whether slurry injections were having an impact on human health or not. The agency did recommend that the state increase monitoring of these injection areas. The agency stated that because the current monitoring program is so lax and poorly documented, future studies would also be restricted in finding any conclusions on the issue