A bill that would have created a fund to compensate the 300,000 people affected by the Freedom Industries chemical spill likely won't make it to the Senate floor.
The bill's strongest proponent said Senate Bill 626 never made it out of committee because of successful lobbying efforts of West Virginia American Water.
Senate Majority Leader John Unger, D-Berkeley, introduced the bill Monday and said it gives victims a choice, other than joining a class action lawsuit, in how to recoup economic loss associated with the spill.
"The attempt is to give people an option," Unger said. "I know folks who don't want to file a lawsuit."
The bill would have created an Office of Elk River Spill Victims' Compensation in the state Department of Administration, which would oversee the Elk River Spill Victims' Compensation Fund, a special account that would be created in the State Treasury.
The fund would collect revenue from the "responsible parties," including but not limited to Freedom Industries, the manufacturers of all chemicals involved in the spill and American Water Co. and all of its affiliates.
It could also accept funds from the federal government, as well as donations from individuals and businesses.
Affected individuals would have to fill out an application detailing why they are eligible for compensation and how much aid they are seeking. Applicants would be able to receive compensation for both economic and non-economic losses suffered as a result of the spill.
Types of non-economic losses would include "physical and emotional pain, suffering, inconvenience, physical impairment, mental anguish, disfigurement, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of society and companionship, loss of consortium or domestic service, hedonic damages, injury to reputation and all other nonpecuniary losses of any kind or nature, any physical injury, long or short term health effects."
The office's director would then evaluate the person's claim and determine how much compensation they receive.
By going through this process, the person would waive their right to pursue a civil case against any of the parties involved in the spill.
But Laura Jordan, water company spokeswoman, said the bill violates both the state and U.S. constitutions.
"The list of due process rights SB 626 would deny to the 'responsible parties' is a long one," Jordan said in a statement. "In a common-law civil litigation process, a defendant has a range of procedural protections under West Virginia common law in any determination of liability and damages.