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Chesapeake Bay cleanup bill advances to W.Va. House

If it passes, twelve plants in seven of eight Eastern Panhandle counties that feed into the watershed will have access to $100 million beginning in January

April 09, 2013|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthewu@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A bill that would free up $100 million for public sewer treatment plant upgrades to meet Chesapeake Bay cleanup requirements in eastern West Virginia was advanced Tuesday by state lawmakers.

Senate Bill 596 was reported to the House floor Tuesday evening after clearing the House Finance Committee earlier in the day, according to an audio webcast streamed live on the state Legislature’s website.

The committee passed Senate Bill 596 with a title amendment, which Jefferson County state Sen. Herb Snyder, the bill’s lead sponsor, said was technical in nature and “thankfully not significant.”

Twelve plants in seven of the eight Eastern Panhandle counties that feed into the Chesapeake Bay Watershed will have access to the $100 million beginning in January, if the bill passes, Snyder has said.

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All told, upgrades to the 12 plants are estimated to cost $248 million, leaving local funds, grants and user fees to pay the balance of what isn’t covered by the funding.

Seven of the 12 plants are in Berkeley and Jefferson counties, including four in Berkeley County and the cities of Martinsburg and Charles Town. Shepherdstown already has upgraded its plant and will be eligible for a payback of 50 cents on the dollar, Snyder has said.

In other House action Tuesday afternoon, legislation aimed at eliminating “puppy mills” in West Virginia was passed by the House Judiciary Committee, according to an audio webcast streamed live on the state Legislature’s website.

Senate Bill 437 would prohibit puppy mills by requiring a business license and annual permits for commercial dog breeders, limit the number of dogs that can be kept for breeding and set humane and sanitary conditions that must be maintained, according to Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley/Jefferson, the bill’s lead sponsor.

Unger has said the bill would provide a stronger law to protect dogs and insure the state does not become a “haven” for illicit breeding operations.

Authorities in Berkeley County seized more than 90 dogs from one breeding business in 2010 and more than 130 dogs and several cats from another individual’s property last year. In both cases, the owners pleaded guilty to multiple misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty.

Like the Chesapeake Bay bill, the dog breeder proposal was reported to the House floor in a brief afternoon session Tuesday and both are on the active calendar to be read for the first of three times Wednesday, according to the state Legislature’s website.

The regular 60-day session ends at midnight Saturday.

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