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Water quality bill deserved more public scrutiny

While the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has given its tentative blessing to a water-quality bill for state rivers, we're still not quite happy with how this important piece of legislation moved through the system.

The bill, intended to prevent additional pollution to West Virginia waterways, is pending in the House of Delegates this week.

This bill is such a comprehensive implementation plan for existing policy that we would like to have seen legislators spend more public effort on it. For example, the House of Delegates has already conducted two public hearings on video poker legislation, but the anti-degredation bill has seen little action outside committee rooms.

Too much has happened out of the public eye. First, there was the scrapping of an original proposal developed by a number of stakeholders (industry, environment, agricultural, tourism and others) yet pleasing none of them.

Then, the plan somehow morphed into the clearly pro-industry bill that was introduced this session.

As the bill has moved through the House in recent weeks, even key senators said they were out of the loop as to what was happening with it. Now, the state Department of Environmental Protection appears to have come on the scene to rework the plan into something the Bush EPA will accept.

This bill is as important to this state's future as gambling or college scholarships. It deserved the Legislature's absolute best and more public scrutiny.

Unfortunately, it did not get it.

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