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Selenium bill passes WV House

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Coal companies can breathe a sigh of relief.

On Friday, the West Virginia House of Delegates passed a bill that calls for the study of, rather than enforcement action, of water quality when coal companies exceed certain levels of selenium. The Environmental Protection Agency has tried in the past to revise selenium standards to no avail.

The current standard is five parts per billion and is loosely enforced. Selenium occurs naturally and is washed from the soil when ground is disturbed, as it is in coal mining. Coal operations are one of the major sources of additional selenium found in West Virginia water. House Bill 2579 would keep the numerical standard in place, but also would require data collection and studies on aquatic life.

The bill's lead sponsor is Delegate Rupie Phillips, D-Logan. Several other Democrats and a few Republicans signed on as co-sponsors. Delegate Tim Miley, D-Harrison and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said the bill isn't a partisan issue.

"It's an important (bill) for the coal industry," he said before the House vote.

Miley said the bill "creates flexibility" for mine companies by not imposing fines that could result in decreased production or closure.

The bill will now move to the Senate.