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On the 10th day of the legislative session, I remember thinking, “wow, this is going to be a long sixty days.” But, as with anything, time flies when you’re having fun. Today is the last day of the 2nd session of the 83rd West Virginia Legislature, or “sine die.” The environmental bills we’ve been watching have either passed or died and all that’s left is to wait for the crack of the gavel at midnight.
Here are the bills we were tracking and their respective fates:
SB 270 – This bill would have allowed commercial logging in State Parks, lands which have been protected from this type of activity for over 80 years. Thanks to your calls, visits, letters, and emails (over 18,000 to legislators and the Governor), this bill never made it out of its first committee.
SB 290 – This bill made changes to water pollution limits and eliminated benchmarks used to determine that best management practices were being used in treating effluent. The WVEC was a part of stakeholder meetings designed to improve the bill- which we accomplished- but the real work will happen during the rule making and rule making review process. E-Council and member groups will have more on how you can stay involved as rule making gets underway.
SB 626 – Or, “the coal bill.” This bill as introduced eliminated much of the Water Pollution Control Act and significantly weakened the public notice process for surface mine permits. and The House amended the bill in Judiciary, restoring public notice by publication. Water quality certifications and mitigation requirements for surface mines will be governed by rule.
HB 4268 – Cotenancy (forced pooling lite). This bill passed out of both houses and was signed into law yesterday by the Governor. Titled the Cotenancy Modernization and Majority Protection Act, this bill allows a majority of 75% of co-tenants in a would-be unit to negotiate a deal with oil and gas developers and would force the minority 25% to accept that same deal. The bill was amended to provide some additional protections for surface owners.
You can see video of the public hearing on this bill here, including the ejection of Lissa Lucas, who was called out of order for citing the campaign contributions of oil and gas companies to committee members.
HB 4154 – The Regulatory Reform Act of 2018 was a bill intended to choose winners and losers in the permitting process. Ostensibly meant to encourage economic development, we couldn’t help but believe that fossil fuel companies would be put on the permitting fast-track while other companies languished behind. Thankfully, this bill died in committee.
SB 410 – Appointment of Industry Advocate at DEP and HB 2909- Abolishment of Environmental Advocate at DEP – These bills are easily explained by their titles. Bad ideas which, fortunately, never saw the light of day.
SB 438 – In more good news for State Parks, this bill authorizes the issuance of bonds to fund construction, improvements, and maintenance at our parks.
SB 600 – In a victory for residential electric customers across West Virginia, this bill, which would have allowed industrial energy users and manufacturers to negotiate discounted rates at the expense of other ratepayers, was rejected on the Senate floor.
It’s been a busy session, made more exciting by the presence of thousands of educators who were waging their own battles under the dome. I hope, if you didn’t get a chance to come down this year, that we will see you at the Capitol in 2019!