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Legislators Acted Wisely on Water Quality Rules

The work of the West Virginia Legislature to diversify and improve the economy for working West Virginia families is showing positive results. Seventeen thousand new jobs have been created in our state since May of 2016. Deliberate and thoughtful legislation has helped make progress possible.

In January of this year, the West Virginia Senate, led by Senate President Mitch Carmichael, quickly passed Senate Bill 1, which allows our West Virginia students, who are financially otherwise unable to attend community and technical college, to enroll and obtain a degree or certificate for a skilled job in the West Virginia workplace. The West Virginia House of Delegates, guided by House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, passed Senate Bill 1 and Governor Justice signed this landmark legislation into law. More hope and greater opportunity for West Virginians who seek training and job skills will be the result. Members of both parties supported the bill.

In like fashion, with a display of bipartisanship, legislators chose an opportunity for more deliberation before making changes to West Virginia’s water quality standards. At issue is a standard pursued by the U.S. EPA that provides recommended water quality rules. The U.S. EPA says these recommendations should be carefully thought through. Due to the complexity of the regulations, each state may tailor and modify the recommended rules to suit state specific needs. Appropriately and wisely, West Virginia legislators agreed to take additional time and seek more information before adopting far- reaching water standards that might not add to West Virginia’s quality of life.

Legislators wisely heeded the adage, “act in haste, repent in leisure.” Simply put, a proposal to change West Virginia’s water quality standards was not ready for legislative approval. By delaying implementation of proposed water standards as found in Senate Bill 163, the legislature appropriately paused to allow more input from all affected parties.

West Virginians have seen all too clearly that regulatory mistakes can have major and lasting consequences. Far-reaching proposals from regulatory sources should receive careful and thoughtful review from legislative bodies. This is exactly the action requested by the West Virginia Manufacturer’s Association. The West Virginia Chamber of Commerce applauds conscientious legislators and a diligent and watchful Manufacturer’s Association for providing specific and precise data that convinced legislators to take a step back from the unknown consequences of Senate Bill 163.

Thanks to prudent legislative oversight and the cooperation of the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, more time will be available for careful review and input into recommended rules changes. In this respect, West Virginia is among the 47 U.S. states that have taken more time to understand this particularly complex water standard.

Our state is blessed with all the ingredients for success. We have excellent proximity to the major markets of our nation. We have wonderful people and workers whose reputation for loyalty and honesty is unparalleled. We have abundant low-cost energy sources and a transportation network that accommodates trade.

As all of us work to continue improving the opportunities for success in our workplace, we must remember our strengths, act carefully and thoughtfully to improve opportunity and balance and weigh legislative and regulatory priorities. In taking some additional time to consider new water quality rules, our West Virginia legislature acted wisely and competently.

Poverty and joblessness are the enemy. We as a state should be unwavering and resolute in confronting these ills. Prudent and thoughtful action from legislative leaders gave West Virginia the 8th fastest growing economy in the United States in terms of Gross Domestic Product in 2017. I support our legislative leaders in pursuing and, when necessary, reviewing and delaying policies that could have an impact on economic growth for West Virginians.

Roberts is president of the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce.

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