Legislative Update – Week #4

By: Hannah King & Lucia Valentine

Bills we oppose:

Aboveground Storage Tank Act

Please read today’s stand-alone article for more information from WV Rivers Coalition on these bills and how to take action.

HB 4083 – Altering the definition of an above ground storage tank

Sponsors: Del. Kelly, Anderson, Zatezalo, Barnhart, Wamsley, Riley

Last Action: Referred to House Energy and Manufacturing Committee

SB 88 – Amending definition of “aboveground storage tank”

Sponsors: Sen. Phillips, Nelson 

Last Action: Referred to Senate Judiciary Committee

 

Boycotting Banks Refusing to Work with Fossil Fuel Companies

SB 262 – Relating generally to financial institutions engaged in boycotts of energy companies

Sponsors: Sen. Phillips, Grady, Martin, Maynard, Karnes, Hamilton, Woodrum

Last Action: Passed the Senate 31:2, Introduced in the house and now headed to House  Banking and Insurance committee

Summary: This bill allows the West Virginia Treasurer’s Office to publish a list of financial institutions that have publicly stated they are boycotting or not working with fossil fuel companies. It also allows the Treasurer’s Office to refuse to enter into a banking contract with any bank on the list. There are concerns that this bill might have a chilling effect on businesses who want to come to our state. We are working with other groups to try and amend or stop this bill, but it has the support of both the Treasurer and the Governor and is likely to pass. 

 

Coal Mining Bond Insurance 

SB 1 – Creating Mining Mutual Insurance Company 

Sponsored By: Sen. Blair (Mr. President) Baldwin, Jeffries, Stollings, Hamilton, Lindsay, Woodrum, Plymale, Takubo

Last Action: Pending in House Energy and Manufacturing 1/27/22 

Summary: This bill is designed to set up a mining mutual insurance company intended to provide: “An option for mining permit holders to obtain performance bond insurance that is available and affordable; and assure that reclamation will occur in a timely and predictable fashion in those instances where a permit holder fails to perform under the terms of the permit issued.” 

We oppose this bill because it requires a $50 million surplus to begin its operations, and this is coming from tax-payer dollars. Our citizens should not be footing the bill for outrageous reclamation costs that coal mining companies have left behind. While we would like to see higher bonding rates for coal mining companies to cover all reclamation costs, we’re not in support of tax-payer funded bailouts for the coal industry. 

 

Fossil Fuels 

HB 3084 – Providing commercial discrimination of producers of coal, gas, oil, carbon-based energy, and other products in the State of West Virginia

Sponsors: Sen. Maynard, Steele, Anderson, Bridges, Dean, Paynter, Kelly, J., Zatezalo, Clark

Last Action: Referred to House Pensions and Retirement Committee

Summary: This bill also creates a restricted list of companies that divest funds from fossil fuel companies, but refers only to the funds in the West Virginia Public Employees Retirement system. It prohibits the investment of funds in companies divesting from natural gas, oil, coal, petrochemicals, forestry products, or agriculture commodities; empowering the board to name restricted businesses to a restricted business list; empowering the board to remove investments from restricted businesses with notice; providing for immunity for actors under this article.” We oppose this bill. 

 

Recycling 

HB4084– Relating to Advanced Recycling 

Sponsors: Zatezalo (lead), Anderson, Kelly, J., Reynolds, Howell, Miller, Forsht, Keaton, Mandt

Last Action: On second reading in the House on 2/7

Summary: This week the WV Manufacturers Association testified in support of the bill and our concerns remain as to how this new process would be regulated. In the House Energy committee this week, we learned that manufacturing companies are looking to come to West Virginia to potentially open some advanced recycling facilities and grow the industry. As these facilities would be considered a factory, they would be subject to water and air permits from the DEP. It was stated by the WV Manufacturers Association  that the recycling would come from any place, from homeowners to businesses, and that plastic recyclables #1-7 would be included in the process. They will also be purchasing plastics from businesses, which is a good thing. Thank you to Delegates Diserio, Young and Hansen for the clarifying questions! 

Read more in last week’s newsletter on how this process is defined. 

 

Waste Management 

HB4505. Abolishing the West Virginia Solid Waste Management Board (FN) – To Energy and Manufacturing then Government Organization

Sponsored By: Del. Hanshaw (Mr. Speaker) [By Request of the Executive]

Last Action: Referred to House Energy and Manufacturing on 2/2

SB554.  Transferring functions of WV Solid Waste Management Board to DEP (FN)

Sponsored By: Sen. Blair (Mr. President) and Baldwin [By Request of the Executive] 

Last Action: Referred to Senate Natural Resources on 2/2

Summary: It is our understanding that these bills seek to transfer the duties and responsibilities of the Solid Waste Management Board to the DEP. This eliminates the independence of the board and its ability to assure proper and integrated solid waste management practices. Many solid waste authorities throughout the state look to the Solid Waste Management Board for guidance, support and grant assistance. We will keep you posted on these bills as we learn more.

 

Water Quality Standards Rule

SB 279: DEP rule relating to requirements governing water quality standards (Sypolt; Judiciary)

Sponsor: Sen. Sypolt

Last Action: Passed out of House Judiciary on 2/3/22, Heading to House floor

Summary: These two bills are the water quality standards rules that include 35 human health criteria updates.

According to WV Rivers Coalition, this loophole creates a process for “the industry to petition the state agency for a site-specific human health criteria that would result in increased toxic discharges by a single petitioning facility.” This change gives the agency and the public a 45-day period to respond, instead of the longer, more-thorough process set forth by the Clean Water Act. 

This week in House Judiciary, Delegate Lovejoy tried to restore the legislative review provision within paragraph 8.2.c. for site specific water quality changes just as Senator Lindsay did in the Senate.  Delegate Pushkin also offered an amendment to restore the 5 human health criteria that become less stringent. They both were unsuccessful, mostly failing on party lines. Thank you, Senator Lindsay, Delegate Lovejoy, and Delegate Pushkin for your efforts! And thanks to everyone who made calls and sent emails!

 

Zoning

HB4553.To clarify the application of zoning requirements to exempt wholesale generators – To the Judiciary

Sponsored By: Del. Clark, Haynes, Anderson, Espinosa, Barrett and Riley 

Last Action: Referred to House Judiciary on 2/3

Summary: This bill seeks to exempt wholesale generators from zoning ordinances. This would allow large scale energy projects to not have to follow local zoning codes. An exemption like this takes away protections in residential areas and has the power to change the landscape of communities. 

 

Bills we support:

Geothermal Energy 

HB 4098 – Relating to Geothermal Energy Development

Sponsors: Anderson, Kelly, J., Steele, Boggs, Pethtel, Burkhammer, Riley, Statler, Westfall, Wamsley, Reynolds 

Last Action: Passed out of House Energy Committee, headed to House Judiciary Committee

Summary: While there are many bills so far that are concerning and catering to fossil fuels, this bill presents an opportunity to regulate geothermal permitting in the state. The bill clarifies that the surface owners own the underground heat. This is a step forward for utilizing other energy resources in the state. 

 

Rare Earth Elements/Minerals

HB 4003-  Relating generally to establishing and implementing a program to explore and capitalize on the potential for recovering valuable and strategically important rare earth elements and critical materials from acid mine drainage

Sponsors: Keaton (lead) Barrett, Hanshaw (Mr. Speaker), Summers, Espinosa, Riley, Howell, Burkhammer, Clark, Pack, Maynor

Last Action: On third reading in the House on 2/7

Summary: This bill establishes and implements a program to explore and capitalize on the potential for recovering valuable and strategically important rare earth elements and critical materials from acid mine drainage. Research has demonstrated that treatment of acid mine drainage can be configured to both improve the quality of mine discharges while recovering rare earth elements and critical materials. Previously considered a liability, ownership of acid mine drainage treatment byproducts is poorly defined. This legislation seeks to clarify ownership of these byproducts in order to incentivize acid mine drainage treatment while recovering rare earth elements and critical materials. 

There are two funds, the Special Reclamation Fund and Acid Mine Drainage Fund, which are currently funded through a bonding system program (per ton of coal is taxed at 29 cents per ton) and permit fees. 

Before anyone treats the mine drainage, they need  multiple permits. The treated and discharged water MUST meet the state’s Water Quality Standards, and the party who takes on this treatment is reliable for any violations. If someone wants to clean up their drainage and potentially profit from any rare earth elements/minerals that can be extracted, they (the former operator, mineral owner, etc) can come to the agency and apply for the permit. 

HB 4025–  Providing exemption to severance tax for severing rare earth elements and other critical minerals

Sponsors: Anderson (lead) Kelly, J., Zatezalo, Pethtel, Riley, Boggs, Bridges, Evans, Maynard, Paynter, Burkhammer

Last Action: Passed out of House Energy & Manufacturing Committee, Headed to House Finance Committee 

Summary: This bill intends to increase economic development by providing tax relief on rare earth elements for the next 5 years. 

 

WV DEP Office of Oil and Gas Funding Bills 

SB 480- Relating to DEP Office of Oil and Gas 

Sponsors: Smith (lead), Phillips, Clements

Last Action: This bill was placed on the Senate Energy, Industry and Mining agenda but has been removed twice

Summary: This bill establishes an annual oversight fee of $100 for wells producing more than 10,000 cubic feet of gas per day to increase the current number of 9 inspectors within the WVDEP’s Office of Oil and Gas back to 20 inspectors. This bill states that it will “adequately fund the Office of Oil and Gas” but each inspector will likely still have 3,000-4,000 wells to oversee, which is still a large amount to regulate per inspector. We would like to see higher permit fees or monies allocated to fund even more inspectors and bring that number of wells down to a more reasonable amount. 

HB2725 – Relating to funding for the DEP Office of Oil and Gas

Sponsors: Del. Hansen 

Last Action: Referred to House Energy and Manufacturing Committee then Finance

Summary: Securing more funding for the WV DEP’s Office of Oil and Gas is of great importance to us and our member groups, and we fully support this bill. The WVDEP gave their budget presentation to the Senate Committee on Finance this week testifying that, due to a lack of funding, there is currently just one inspector per 7,000 wells. This bill would require an annual oversight fee of $100 for each well that would fund the DEP’s Office of Oil and Gas, with any excess to be used to plug orphaned wells.

 

Bills of concern:

Carbon Capture 

HB 4483 – Relating to real property, tax and registration requirements associated with carbon offset agreements

Sponsors: Anderson, Kelly, J., Graves, Ferrell, Holstein, Wamsley, Mandt, Clark, Hott, Zatezalo

Last Action: Passed out of House Energy Committee 2/3, on to Finance

Summary: During the December Energy Interim meeting, there was a presentation that detailed a few forest carbon capture contracts happening in the state. They couldn’t give specific details on who, where and how long the contracts were, due to the agreements being amongst private landowners and companies out of state (Mainly California corporations). The original version of this bill limits the contracts to 30 years, and imposed an excise tax on the CCS agreement.

As new bills are introduced, we will add them to this list, along with any updates or changes on the current bills. If you have any questions or concerns about any bills, please reach out to Hannah King (hking1275@gmail.com) or Lucia Valentine (luciavalentine10@gmail.com).

Updated: February 4, 2022 — 6:35 pm

2 Comments

Add a Comment
  1. What about HB 4260 that apparently moves government legal advertisements/presumably also permit applications to some website only. This was a fight WVHC, Rivers, Downstream strtegies, TU, and others fought off years ago.

    Notifying the public needs to be just that.

    And not all of the public – especially in the local rural mountain counties – have reliable access, or none at all, to the internet. And more importantantly we haven’t ALL transitioned into the cyber world of communicating or getting our news.

    PLEASE assure me that this bill has no legs — or that someone is drumming up enough oppostion to put an end to the idiocy.

  2. Geothermal requires drilling which produces waste just like fracking. There are toxic substances, including radioactivity in underground layers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Send this to a friend