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WV agriculture bill revives concerns over planned fumigation facility

  • A restrictive bill passed Tuesday by the West Virginia House of Representatives is raising concerns that logging companies will revive plans to build pesticide-spouting fumigation facilities in the Allegheny Mountains.
  • The bill would prevent counties from superseding state agricultural regulation laws.
  • Hardy County resident John Rosato called the bill “a backdoor way for non-local entities to build what they want, when they want, where they want, without regard to the impact on local communities.” accused of being.

A West Virginia bill that would limit counties’ ability to regulate agricultural operations passed the House of Representatives on Tuesday, raising concerns that logging companies could revive plans to build toxic fumigation facilities in the scenic Allegheny Mountains. Concerns are growing.

The House voted 84-16 to approve the bill, which had previously passed the state Senate. Republicans hold an overwhelming majority in both chambers. The bill would prohibit counties from violating state law regarding agricultural operations, including revoking previously adopted county regulations.

Hardy County resident John Rosato said the bill “actually allows non-local entities to build what they want, when they want, where they want, without regard to the impact on the local community. It’s just a backdoor method.”

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Last May, Allegheny Wood Products withdrew its application for a state air permit to build a facility along Route 48 in the Baker area of ​​Hardy County after residents mounted an onslaught of opposition to state regulators. At the time, county commissioners said the company’s efforts would face significant hurdles locally.

The facility will process logs before shipping them overseas. Before the company backed out, the state Department of Environmental Protection’s Air Quality Bureau announced preliminary plans to issue a permit that would allow the facility to emit up to nearly 10 tons of the pesticide methyl bromide into the air annually.

Seen here is the dome of the West Virginia State Capitol in Charleston, West Virginia. (AP Photo/Jeff Gentner, File)

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, methyl bromide can cause lung disease, convulsions, coma, and ultimately death. Because it is three times heavier than air, it can accumulate in poorly ventilated or low-lying areas and can remain in the air for several days under adverse conditions.

Although the bill does not specifically address fumigation facilities, it prohibits counties from prohibiting the purchase or restricting the use of federally or state-registered pesticides, herbicides, or insecticides.

It’s unclear whether Allegheny Wood Products, which has eight sawmills in the state, wants to restart efforts to obtain an air permit. You will need to submit a new application. Company officials did not immediately respond to email and phone messages left by The Associated Press.

Hardy County Commissioner Stephen Shetrom said Tuesday that “there will definitely be more room” for Allegheny to apply for permits, but that “the ability at the local level to develop regulations to prevent this from happening will be diminished.” “I will.”

It’s also unclear whether Republican Gov. Jim Justice plans to sign the bill. A spokesperson for the governor did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday. The governor’s family owns dozens of businesses, including coal and agriculture. Justice’s company grows more than 50,000 acres of corn, wheat and soybeans in West Virginia and three other states, according to the governor’s official website.

The bill would also prohibit county commissions from enacting ordinances regulating buildings or businesses on agricultural land. Hardy County is located along the Virginia line in the heart of the state’s poultry industry, less than a two-hour drive from Washington, DC.

County planner Melissa Scott said the situation at the fumigation facility is a concern for many residents, but it’s not the only problem with the bill.

“Our real concern is that everything our people hold most dear will ultimately be lost and the opportunity to do something about it will be lost,” she wrote in an email to The Associated Press on Tuesday. I wrote it by email.

In recent years, lawmakers have expanded the definition of agriculture to include what Scott calls “almost any activity that occurs on rural land.”

Now, “this Congress seems intent on allowing industry to make its own rules at all costs to the community,” she said. “Worst of all, this ‘industry over community’ mentality is setting West Virginia up for the next round of exploitation. Will we not learn from our history?”

Scott said the county commission will work to continue educating the public about the importance of allowing communities to maintain their unique values ​​and assets.

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“Leaving people feeling unable to make a difference in their communities is definitely not going to improve their quality of life,” she says. “It just takes away their desire to stay here.”

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