Here’s what Republicans in West Virginia are up to:
West Virginia’s House of Delegates passed legislation Tuesday that will make it more difficult for workers to sue their employers for on-the-job injuries.
The legislation (HB2011), which now goes to the Senate, restricts workers’ compensation recipients and their families from collecting lawsuit damages from employers following on-the-job injuries. The bill passed 59-38, with all but a handful of Republicans voting to support it.
House Republicans said the bill clarified — but didn’t eliminate — the “deliberate intent” exception that allows injured workers to sue employers.
But Democrats weren’t buying that explanation. “It clarifies that we are not willing to hold employers accountable if they specifically and intentionally expose workers to unsafe working conditions. Period,” said House Minority Leader Tim Miley, D-Harrison. “We’re allowing employers who are reckless and unsafe to get by with their continued reckless behavior, and that’s wrong.”
But that’s not all, there’s more:
A year after a toxic leak contaminated drinking water for 300,000 residents, West Virginia lawmakers are considering a series of proposals that would weaken a new chemical tank safety law, remove stronger pollution protections for streams across the state, and protect the coal industry from enforcement actions over violations of water quality standards.
Among other things, the bill (SB 357) as aimed at stopping successful citizen suits brought over mining company violations of Clean Water Act standards where those standards were not specifically written into state DEP permits and prohibiting the DEP from incorporating those standards into future coal permits. It also includes a long-sought change the coal industry wants to West Virginia’s water quality limit for aluminum.
The legislation has come under criticism, though, from the United Mine Workers union, which says it also weakens safety standards for coal miners.“
As long as miners continue to die in West Virginia’s mines, we need to be looking for ways to strengthen health and safety protections, not gut them,” UMW President Cecil Roberts said Friday.
Companion bills in both houses (HB 2574 and SB 423) would exempt from the state’s new chemical tank safety standards the vast majority of aboveground storage tanks that registered with the DEP to comply with the law passed in the wake of the January 2014 leak at the Freedom Industries facility on the Elk River.
This is the Republican way.