Busy Week at the WV Legislature: Here’s the Latest

By Hannah King & Rob Casto, WVEC Lobby Team

We have compiled a list of bills we are following with updates and recommendations on actions you can take to help us out!

HB 2598 is the oil and gas tank exemptions (AKA Aboveground Storage Tank) bill which passed the House and is now pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee. We are expecting to see it on the agenda soon, so please reach out to your Judiciary members and let them know you oppose this legislation. 

HB 2382 is the DEP rules bundle that includes the Water Quality Standards rule. Unfortunately, this passed out of the Senate today. Thank you to Senator Lindsay for offering an amendment this week when the Senate Judiciary Committee took up the bill that would have kept the updated weakened values at the same levels they are now. Also, we want to thank the 10 Senators who voted against the bill. Please call the Governor’s office (304-558-2000) and encourage the Governor to veto this bill. 

HB 2630 requires the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection to pay back fines to political subdivisions if they make required upgrades or fixes in relation to those fines. This passed the House and is now sitting in the Senate Judiciary Committee. There are some concerns with this bill and we want to make sure that our state DEP is enforcing our environmental laws, not the federal EPA. 

HB 2959 which relates to the refinancing of environmental pollution control equipment for coal-fired power plants was moved to the House inactive calendar on March 19th. We will keep you updated should this bill be placed back on the House Special Calendar.

HB 2667 creates a cost-saving program for state buildings regarding energy efficiency. This bill passed out of the House Finance committee and was on first reading on the House floor. We are looking forward to the passage of this bill!

HB 3269 requires the Department of Environmental Protection to assume responsibility for costs and permitting of dams that are deemed to be under state control. A representative from DEP expressed concerns with the way it was originally written, as it would shift tens of millions in costs for dam safety to DEP. The counsel for DEP suggested striking the word article, and adding the word section, making the bill much more narrow and less costly to the DEP. A DEP-suggested amendment passed to narrow the bill’s focus and HB 3269 is now headed to House Finance. 

SB 542 encourages continued operation of coal-fired electric plants.The bill requires the WV Public Service Commission to consider all economics related to and involved with decisions involving public utility energy plans; and requires advance notification and approval before coal-fired plants or utilities are closed or sold. The bill is still in the Senate Judiciary Committee – please continue to contact the committee to voice your opposition to this bill.

SB 616 which would abolish the office of Environmental Advocate within DEP is still in Senate Energy, Industry and Mining and is not scheduled to be placed before the committee for further discussion. Thank all of you who reached out to committee members to voice your opposition to this bill.

HB 2810, which would remove severance taxes on oil and gas produced from low-producing wells, is not scheduled to be heard by the House Energy Committee. We will keep you updated if anything changes.

An originating bill in Senate Energy, Industry and Mining was discussed in committee on Tuesday, March 23 and would help fund the DEP Office of Oil and Gas. A $100 fee will apply to all oil and gas wells producing 10 MCF (measured in thousands of cubic feet) or more. The Office of Oil and Gas is at a $1.3 million shortfall and this would gather $800,000 worth of funding to maintain the inspectors. The Governor is planning to add an extra $500,000 to fund the Office, but that has yet to be signed. We will be reporting more on this as the bill number is assigned, and are looking forward to its passage.

We are also very excited to report that House Judiciary Chairman Capito placed an originating Power Purchase Agreement bill on the agenda today and it passed out with bipartisan support. We have been working hard on PPA bills all session and we are very happy to see one at least make it out of committee. This bill will help create WV jobs and allow citizens to go solar for an affordable price. There is no bill number yet, but we will update you next week when it has been assigned! 

There are still numerous bills dealing with off-road vehicles in WMA’s, State Parks and Forests that have not made it to committee agendas. Several state agencies are opposing these bills and we will continue to monitor these throughout the remainder of the session.

Upcoming important dates:

  • Forty-seventh Day – March 28, 2021: Bills due out of committees in house of origin to ensure three full days for readings. 
  • Fiftieth Day – March 31, 2021: Last day to consider bill on third reading in house of origin. Does not include budget or supplementary appropriation bills.

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