By Hannah King and Lucia Valentine
With crossover day behind us, we are focused on several bills that still have a chance to pass. Keep an eye out for action alerts! The session ends on Saturday, March 12 at midnight. Read on for what happened with bills this week:
Bills to watch next week:
Aboveground Storage Tank Act
HB 2598 – Modifying the inspection requirements and the definition of an above ground storage tank
Sponsors: Kelly, J., Anderson, Mandt, Horst, Barnhart, Conley, Cooper, Zatezalo, Queen, Rohrbach
Last Action: Passed the House and referred to Senate Energy, Industry and Mining on 2/16/22
Summary: This bill would relax inspection requirements for oil and gas tanks located within zones of critical concern, which are the nearest to our drinking water intakes. We’ve been working hard to keep this bill off the agenda, but we still have one week left before. Check out this fact sheet from WV Rivers Coalition for more on the bill. We oppose this bill.
Action: Please keep your calls coming on this bill as it awaits action in the Senate. Call your Senators next week and urge them to reject the tank bill again this year.
WV DEP Office of Oil and Gas Funding Bills
SB 480 – Relating to DEP Office of Oil and Gas
Sponsors: Smith, Phillips, Clements
Last Action: Passed the senate and referred to House Finance on 2/22/22
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 (OOG) 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 support this bill.
This bill was placed on the agenda in conjunction with SB 613, but that bill did not survive crossover day.
Action: Please call your House Finance members and urge them to put this bill on their agenda!
HB 4408 – Relating to contracts for construction of recreational facilities in state parks and forests
Sponsors: Dean, Paynter, Phillips, Jeffries, J., Cooper, Miller, Ferrell
Last Action: Passed the House and referred to Senate Finance Committee on 3/1/22
Summary: HB 4408 would open all West Virginia state parks and forests by expanding private leasing terms to all state parks and forests to 50 years. All amendments proposed to limit casinos and off road vehicles from this bill have failed.
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: This bills was taken up in House Energy on 3/3/22 and referred to House Finance Committee
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.”
This bill requires a $50 million surplus to begin its operations with an undetermined funding source (AKA tax-payer dollars). We’re not in support of tax-payer funded bailouts for the coal industry. We oppose this bill.
Action: Call the House Finance chairman and tell him to keep this bill off his agenda.
Sponsored By: Del. Clark, Haynes, Anderson, Espinosa, Barrett and Riley
Last Action: Passed the House and referred to Senate Energy, Industry and Mining on 3/2/22
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. We’ve been working with a lot of folks to put a halt to this bill, which only made it out of the House Judiciary Committee by one vote last week. We oppose this bill.
Action: Call the Senate Energy, Industry and Mining chairman and encourage him to keep this bill off the agenda.
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 Senate Energy, Industry and Mining, on to Senate Judiciary
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. We support the intent of this bill.
Office of Miners Health, Safety and Training
Senate Concurrent Resolution 53 – Requesting Office of Miners’ Health, Safety, and Training study need for health, safety, and training division in energy producing facilities
Lact Action: Passed Senate Energy, Industry and Mining on 2/24/22
Summary: This bill seeks to consolidate the health and safety facilities for all different energy sectors: coal, gas, wind, solar, hydrocarbon, oil and gas, etc., and move them under one office in order to more uniformly regulate each industry. This bill requests the office of Miners’ Health, Safety, and Training to study the feasibility of absorbing all of the health and safety facilities in the state during the joint interim session. Senator Smith cautioned that we didn’t want to unintentionally dilute this agency and spread its work too thin. He further stated that “there was a need for safety and we want to have protections for workers and industry.”
HB 4084 – Relating to Advanced Recycling
Sponsors: Zatezalo, Anderson, Kelly, J., Reynolds, Howell, Miller, Forsht, Keaton, Mandt
Last Action: Completed Legislation and headed for the governor’s desk.
Carbon Capture & Sequestration
HB 4491 – To establish requirements for carbon dioxide sequestration
Sponsored By: Anderson, Kelly, J., Ferrell, Hansen, Wamsley, Holstein, Clark, Hott, Young
Last Action: Completed Legislation and headed for the governor’s desk
Bills that did not make it over before Crossover Day:
Office of Miners Health, Safety and Training
HB 4840 – Relating to the Office of Miners Health, Safety and Training.
Sponsors: Steele, Foster
Last Action: Passed House Government Organization and died on the House Floor
Summary: This bill would have converted the Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training to a compliance agency to assist mine operators. It also would have removed several civil penalties and fines from coal mine operators and changed the requirements for inspectors to inspect and issue fines for coal mine operators, requiring them to make “recommendations” instead of orders. In addition, it would have cut the requirement for training for underground miners from 6 months to 3 months. After coal miners packed a public hearing this week, the bill was moved to the inactive calendar and appears to be dead for this session.
Office of Oil and Gas
SB 613 – Establishing reliable funding for DEP Office of Oil and Gas
Sponsors: Smith, Phillips, Stollings, Lindsay
Last Action: Passed out of Senate Energy, Industry and Mining and referred to Senate Finance on 2/25/22
Summary: This bill would have funded the Office of Oil and Gas by taking 1.5% of the oil and gas severance tax for the Office of Oil and Gas, generating approximately $3 million annually, which would help DEP address their inspector shortage.
Sponsored By: Sen. Blair (Mr. President) and Baldwin [By Request of the Executive]
Last Action: Passed Senate Natural Resources and referred to Senate Finance on 2/16/22. It was not taken up in Senate Finance before Crossover Day.
Summary: This bill would have transferred the duties and responsibilities of the Solid Waste Management Board to the DEP, a solution looking for a problem.