CHARLESTON, W.Va. A bill that would restrict the use of air quality information collected by community air monitoring systems.

Evan Hansen, D. Monongalia, 79, said the text of the bill tells the leadership of the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection not to use the independently collected data from community air monitoring systems for any regulatory or legal purpose.

“It simply directs them not to use the data in any of their decision-making processes,” Hansen said on WAJR’s “Talk of the Town.” “And it goes even further to prevent that type of data from being used in court.”

Hansen said community air monitoring systems, when installed and used properly, can provide important health information to the community. Many of the warnings that could be developed using the data could change the trajectory of negative health outcomes in the state or notify officials of concerning trends in and around manufacturing facilities.

“They primarily test for a type of pollution that’s related to heart disease, asthma, and low birth weight, and those are concerns for West Virginia,” Hansen said.

Hansen said a trend toward more community air monitoring programs across the state could be the reason for the legislation. Across the state, there are currently 13 air monitoring stations that Hansen said are inadequate in number and functionality.

“They are concerned that there are more and more community air monitoring programs being developed across the country and in West Virginia, and they want to make sure that data is not used,”
Hansen said.

Delegate Hansen is also an environmental consultant who has used the data in the courtroom. He said the current procedure has worked in the court cases he has been a part of, and the system really does not need to be changed.

“Just like they do, they should be able to consider citizen data and use it so long as it was collected using proper procedures, and there’s already a procedure in place by the DEP and procedures in court to rule our unreliable data,” Hansen said.

The policies that are in place require the data to be vetted in such a way that questionable information can be found before it is used for regulations or in the courtroom.

“The Department of Environmental Protection will not use unreliable data in their regulatory programs, and if you try to bring unreliable data into court, it’s going to get thrown out, so there’s no problem to solve here.”

The House Energy and Manufacturing Committee will consider the bill at 1 p.m. Tuesday.