CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State Senate Majority Leader John Unger said he has heard from officials in other states who watched West Virginia through the recent water emergency.
Unger (D-Berkeley) said he was in a meeting two weeks ago where elected leaders from several states discussed the legislative response centered on SB 373, which was signed into law by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.
“Many of them are now pointing to West Virginia where they’re passing stricter water resource protection acts in their respective states,” Unger said. “Senate Bill 373 has been a model in which they’ve looked at.”
The new law establishes a regulatory program for above ground storage tanks, requires water utilities to come up with source water protection plans, looks at water resources and mandates an early warning system if problems arise.
Unger said the law also takes aim at a long debate.
“We’re trying to break the barrier on this whole debate between the environmental or economic development. You have to have both in today’s world,” Unger said. “In the 21st Century you can’t choose one or the other—you have to have both.”
The circumstances that allowed the Freedom Industries chemical leak to contaminate West Virginia’s water are present in other states, Unger said.
“What happened here can happen anywhere throughout the country, and they recognize that,” he said. “West Virginia is not going to be judged on what happened to us but West Virginia is going to be judged on how we react.”