On Thursday, February, 12th the Senate Judiciary committee sent HB2004 to the Senate floor with an expected vote this week. HB2004 will require legislative approval before any state plan is submitted to EPA under the proposed Clean Power Plan rules to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Representatives of the WVDEP, Alpha Natural Resources, and the Attorney General’s office spoke before the committee and answered questions on the proposed measure.
Despite HB2004 having a $500,000 fiscal note attached to it, neither the House nor the Senate saw the need for it to go through the House or Senate finance committees. The half million dollar fiscal note is the cost the WVDEP estimated to prepare the feasibility study required in HB2004. The feasibility study will include an economic analysis of how the new EPA Clean Power Plan rules, when approved, will impact WV. It’s likely this report will be used merely as a political tool for the Legislature to use as it plans to continue to inflate any negative impacts new EPA rules have had on industry and ignore the benefits of reducing pollution and improving quality of life.
The WVDEP informed the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday that it was concerned the bill will make it difficult for the agency to engage with neighboring states to develop a regional plan as opposed to a state wide plan. With the Legislature being required to approve the state plan, there is a risk involved in spending valuable time and resources collaborating with other states if the Legislature can reject the plan before EPA even sees a copy of it.
The Attorney General’s office updated the committee on the current litigation it has initiated in its challenge of the EPA draft Clean Power Plan rules. The attorney representing the office before the committee touted West Virginia as being the lead challenger in the two cases filed thus far against the EPA.
Following approval of the measure sending HB2004 to the Senate floor for passage, an impromptu on-the-record discussion commenced regarding a desire to get West Virginia moved from the EPA region with headquarters in Philadelphia to the region based in Atlanta. Tennessee and Kentucky are currently under the jurisdiction of EPA’s Atlanta Regional Office, while Virginia and West Virginia are under the Philadelphia Region. The idea is that regulators based in Atlanta for some reason will be more sympathetic to West Virginia and the coal industry than those in Philadelphia.
Sen. Trump, Chairman of the Committee, ordered a resolution be drafted requesting the EPA regions be re adjusted. Sen. Karnes responded to the proposed order saying it was merely a petition that would have no tangible benefit. Sen. Karnes went on to plug SCR 21 that would add WV to list of 29 other states calling for a constitutional convention to limit the jurisdiction of the federal government, inevitably allowing energy companies to send more pollution into our communities, air, and water. Only 34 states are required, so please tell your legislators not to support SCR21, as a constitutional convention would allow our constitution to be rewritten to benefit polluters. Don’t let WV become part of that.