By Delegate Ed Evans
(D – McDowell, 26)
I want to start out by saying that my thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by the past week’s floodwaters. In times like these, it is sometimes hard to feel like there is much you can do, but one thing I have been able to do is reach out to the Governor’s office about our need for crosses over our underpasses into Welch. They have assured me that the issue will be addressed and I assure you that I will not let the matter drop until it has been taken care of.
Despite the rain, things here in Charleston have moved along as usual. We have had robust debate on a number of bills, both in committee and on the House Floor. There are two bills that I want to bring to your attention today, as I believe they have the potential to greatly impact life in our part of the state.
The first bill is Senate Bill (SB) 11, declaring that strikes and work stoppages by public employees are illegal. This bill was a total waste of taxpayer money to put together, debate, and vote on because these activities are already illegal in West Virginia. As I stated on the House floor, our teachers and school service personnel went on strike despite the fact that it is illegal because things got bad enough that they felt they had to. If things get bad enough, they’ll do it again. I know what it feels like to have to walk that line – I did it in 1990 because I could not feed my family on a teacher’s salary. I stood with the public employees as they demanded PEIA be fully funded – a demand that still has not been met – in 2018 and 2019. And if they walk out again, I will be right there with them.
The next bill is House Bill (HB) 2598, altering the definition of an above ground storage tank. We first took this bill up in the Energy Committee, where I petitioned for it to be second referenced to the Committee on Health and Human Services. My request was denied by the committee, so I took my concerns with the bill – which covers the deregulation of storage tanks that hold dangerous chemicals – to the Speaker of the House, Delegate Hanshaw. I was very pleased that the Speaker agreed with me and sent the bill to the Health Committee after it was reported out of the Energy Committee.
The Above Ground Storage Tank Act was passed in 2014 after thousands of gallons of chemicals leaked from an aboveground storage tank into the Elk River, contaminating the water supply of 300,000 West Virginians. HB 2598 puts West Virginians’ health at risk by deregulating more than 1,000 oil and gas waste tanks across 27 counties. The tanks are upstream from, and close to, public drinking water intakes. There is a history of West Virginia’s citizens being harmed by businesses being allowed to make decisions that are better for their bottom line than for public health. Our people have had to bear the brunt of contaminated drinking water, from days long boil water advisories to long lasting health effects, and I know that I get calls almost every week about one of our community’s water pumps being out or another issue with the public water systems. This bill is simply the last thing we need when it comes to protecting our families.
If you want to get in touch with me to let me know what you think about certain legislation or certain issues in general, please reach out. Access to the Capitol is currently limited due to COVID, but you can call me at 304-340-3165, email me at [email protected], or write me at Building 1, Room 2R, 1900 Kanawha Blvd. E, Charleston, WV 25305. I am proud to serve as the Minority Chair for Committee on Energy and Manufacturing, as well as the Minority Vice Chair of the Committee on Agriculture and the Committee on Pensions and Retirement, and a member of the Committee on Education and Committee on Technology & Infrastructure.