CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Both chambers of the Legislature have passed a bill that would create a new, likely more lenient standard for regulating selenium discharges into waterways from coal mines.
The bill passed unanimously by the Senate on Friday calls for a state-specific selenium standard, rather than the federal standard published by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. If coal mines are found to have exceeded guidelines, the bill would trigger additional monitoring instead of punishment.
The coal industry argues that the federal standard is not applicable to West Virginia's fast-flowing streams.
The EPA would have to approve any change to the selenium standard, but if they balked at West Virginia's standard it could open the door to lawsuits.
Studies have found selenium harmful to aquatic life, and to humans with high-level exposure.