Under the Dome
The West Virginia Environmental Council (WVEC) works every day to protect West Virginians and our land from harmful industrial practices that endanger our clean water supply and the air we breathe. We are pledged to fight against those who believe that clean air and water are bad for West Virginia and bad for business.
The Legislature and the Governor have declared war against West Virginia’s environmental protection regulations and pledged allegiance to outside industry in the name of dollars and cents. Check out our email from last week regarding the State of the State address made by Governor Justice.
Our dedicated Lobby Team is fired up and ready to face these threats head on! Stay tuned every Wednesday throughout session for a weekly update (like this one!) outlining what our team is up to and how you can take action.
Meet our team!
John Street, Lobby Coordinator
John Street is WVEC’s Lobby Coordinator for 2017. A native West Virginian, John is a graduate of WVU College of Arts and Sciences (1990) and WVU College of Law (1994). John’s prior experience in state government includes serving as a member of the staff of Senate President Jeff Kessler during the 2014 legislative session and working as a research analyst for Senate Democrats during the 2015 session. John enjoyed 15 years in account management with Thomson Reuters before joining state government work. He lives in Charleston’s East End.
With over ten years of administrative experience, both in the federal government and the non-profit arena, Laura brings incredible organizing skills and energy to the table. Laura has recently been accepted into WVU’s College of Law and is the mother of Clyde Davidson, a one-eyed geriatric chihuahua. Laura and Clyde both live in Charleston’s East End.
Kate Leary is a recent graduate of the University of Montana with a Masters degree in Environmental Studies. She has previously been a teaching assistant, Pennsylvania DCNR intern, magazine board member, and office assistant.
Coming to the WVEC from the Eastern Panhandle, David Manthos brings a wide range of expertise on environmental science and insights on politics in one of the fastest-growing regions of West Virginia. As an AmeriCorps VISTA in the coal fields of Preston County and Program Director at SkyTruth in Shepherdstown, David has mapped the impacts of the fossil fuel industry in the Mountain State both on the ground as well as from air and space. He holds a B.A. in Geography and Environmental Studies from Bucknell University, was a 2016 DNC Delegate representing West Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District, and lives in Charles Town with his wife Vaida.
Bills to Watch
Although we are just a week and a half in, it has already been a busy session at the legislature.
Several bills related to forced pooling have been introduced this session, often re-branded as “joint development”. Despite shifting language, SB 244 still allows a unit to be pooled and drilled if the majority of the mineral-holders agree, forcing minority stakeholders into the “pool”. If you had any doubt about who this bill benefits, SB 244 would modernize older leases to allow for pooling, but makes no effort to help landowners raise the low royalty rates on older leases up to more generous modern standards.
Two bills in opposition to forced pooling have been advanced in the House. HB 2131 is a flat ban on any pooling mechanism, while HB 2158 requires the consent of all mineral owners to establish a pooling agreement rather than a simple majority, protecting minority shareholders.
In better news, campaign finance reform bills are currently advancing in both Houses. SB 8 and HB 2319 make specific restrictions on donations received during the legislative session, while SB 64 looks at modernizing donation disclosures more broadly, altering existing laws to reflect the rise of Political Action Committees (PACs) and other fundraising entities.
The newly introduced SB 246 weakens water protections and would allow for more harmful toxins in our waterways. While current permits are set using low stream flow, SB 246 would switch to average flow, allowing an increase in total emissions for many facilities. This bill also gives the DEP Secretary more latitude in defining mixing zones, raising the possibility of toxic discharges located closer together and closer to drinking water intakes. Undercutting water quality further, it blocks opportunities for key water plants to be enforced via permits. Finally, SB 246 bucks precedent by allowing permittees access to permit information before the public, adding a dash of procedural unfairness to the toxic mix.
SB 245 allows pipeline companies to “enter upon any property without the written permission of its owner” to conduct surveying, treading on the rights of private property owners. In another potential victory for industry, SB 43 would restrict the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission’s ability to create commonsense regulations on the spacing of deep wells.
The WVEC is gearing up for our annual Awards Dinner! Please join us Monday, February 27th from 6-9 pm at the Woman’s Club of Charleston. Tickets still available!
Featuring fabulous food by Debbie Matthews of Whimsy Catering and live jazz music performed by Jonathan Smith, Keyboardist for GrooveHeavy.
- Senator Ronald Miller — Chuck Chambers Public Service Award
- Chad Cordell — Laura Forman Grassroots Activist of the Year
- April Pierson-Keating — Linda Schnautz Environmental Courage Award
- Dan Conant, Solar Holler — Green Entrepreneur of the Year
- Junior Walk — Youth Activism Award
- Ken Hechler — Special Recognition Award
Several dozens of people, just like you, who are concerned about the threats to the environment, about climate change, about clean water, and Trump’s threats to roll back protections we’ve worked so hard for, will gather in one place on February 27th from 8:30 – 2 pm so you will be able to connect with them, to find out what works, what doesn’t, how you can help increase your reach, and discuss issues that are important to the environmental community.
Trump and the Republican led congress are already attacking the environment by allowing pipelines to endanger our water and forests, both here in West Virginia and out west with Keystone and DAPL. In state, industry is working to rollback clean water rules, and above-ground storage tank regulations, even as MCHM was leaked again. There is even talk federally about removing all of EPA’s power to enforce regulations!
As climate change deniers move into the White House, Congress, and WV State Legislature in bigger numbers, we must push back and make it clear that the people of this state believe in protecting our land, air, and water. We can’t do it for you, but we can and will work with you to make it easier. E-day is free, but registration is required.