WVEC Legislative Update

February 16, 2001

New DEP director nice break from past

Dan Radmacher

I'm not quite sure what to make of this. For the first time in four years, I didn't feel like shuddering when I came out of an interview with a newly hired director of the state's Division of Environmental Protection.

Sent from The Charleston Gazette. Read the complete story online at



Water Wars

Dirty Water Bill Sent to Legislature

by Nathan Fetty and Don Garvin

It was a disappointing first week in Charleston as the Joint Rulemaking Review Committee passed the polluter-backed Dirty Water Anti-degradation Bill to the full legislature. Despite nay votes from Sen. John Unger, Sen. Herb Snyder and Del. Virginia Mahan, the big-business friendly Committee inserted industry's own version of an anti-degradation implementation plan in place of the Environmental Quality Board (EQB) version that had been sent to the legislature.

Even though the Dirty Water Bill subverts public participation and comment on the rule, throws out consensus points reached on the EQB document, isn't strong enough to pass EPA scrutiny, allows our high-quality streams to be polluted to the lowest common denominator, and kills small business development and economic diversification, it was greased to slide right through the Committee. Looking for visionary, forward-thinking leadership? You won't find much of it in that Committee.

Some background: Anti-degradation is the part of the federal Clean Water Act that is supposed to protect our clean water and keep our dirty rivers and streams from being polluted further. Think of it as the converse of river clean-up plans, or TMDLs. West Virginia has an anti-degradation policy on the books, but no plan to implement it, even though the Clean Water Act was passed way back in 1972. Keep in mind that anti-degradation is only a review of polluting activity, but an important one that's supposed to ensure the economic and social benefits of the discharge outweigh its environmental damage.

In 1999, the West Virginia Rivers Coalition filed a notice of intent to sue EPA over the state's lack of an anti-degradation implementation plan. Since then, the environmental community has worked in good faith with stakeholders from industry, government agencies and other interested citizens to come up with a decent plan. Although we weren't exactly pleased with the rule that the EQB sent to the legislature, we were ready to negotiate on some of the more contentious details. Industry had agreed to negotiations, then backed out at the last minute. Polluters and the Committee thumbed their noses at the expert agency that promulgated the rule (EQB), the many long months of stakeholder meetings, and the public comments that were overwhelmingly in favor of a strong policy.

By passing this bill, the Committee sets a terrible precedent that allows the fox to write its own rules for guarding the hen house. These sly foxes have been crying wolf all along, saying the rule will put a hurting on business. Recall the polluters who said the same thing about strip mining regulations, or good groundwater standards, or new oil and gas rules.

So what's in the Dirty Water Bill that makes it so bad?

It wipes out protection for our high-quality waters ­ the waters whose good quality we should be treating as an economic asset. As a matter of fact, the bill gives the majority of state streams a default protection in the lowest rung, including trout streams that are normally afforded good protection.

The public isn't given much of a chance to participate in the process. It isn't even allowed to nominate deserving streams for the highest tier of protection.

All permit applicants are required to provide background water quality data as part of the permit application process. That makes it pretty tough on the little guy and private landowners, so we can kiss many lesser polluting innovations and new businesses good-bye. Make no mistake about it ­ this is a bill by and for big business, who wants relaxed pollution standards.

It creates a field day for lawyers, and not just public interest lawyers. We'll be seeing companies and farmers and developers suing each other, or suing the government. And down the road, taxpayers will be picking up hefty tabs for pollution clean-up. Then regulators will clamp down on polluters, and future, greener business won't have a prayer. (It's much cheaper to prevent pollution than clean it up. That's just smart business. What's that tell you about the vision of the state's business leadership?)

The bill "grandfathers" existing dischargers from anti-degradation review. It also exempts "nationwide" permits from review ­ the horrific permits for valley fills, nasty dredging projects, etc.

Cumulative impacts of multiple discharges into a stream aren't addressed. Nor does it do much to promote pollution alternatives that are lesser or non-degrading.

This week's developments aren't a great surprise, and will make our job very challenging this session. Now, we have an anti-degradation implementation rule from which to work (albeit a horrible one), and over the next 60 days you'll be hearing from us a lot. We'll be tracking the rule in its various committees in the House and Senate, and calling on YOU at critical times to contact your legislators, make visits to the Capitol, etc. This is shaping up to be the biggest green battle of the session. Remember the garbage wars? Well, now we're staring down the barrel at the water wars, and polluters have won the first big battle. Lawmakers hear from industry lobbyists much more than any of us, so it's critical that they hear from you loud and clear!

So, to get you warmed up, why not tell your legislators how you feel about the Dirty Water Bill? Tell them to protect public waterways, and that private special interests have a duty to protect our rivers and streams. Tell them to keep our clean streams clean!


Governor Talking The Talk

by Frank Young, President, WV Highlands Conservancy

I was pleased to hear Governor Wise, in Wednesday's State of the State message, say that the state will enforce environmental laws. I hope that he and the various state agencies follow through with that commitment.

I hope the governor will put environmental law enforcement above politics- or better yet, that environmental law enforcement becomes the politics of state government. It's a tall order. It's a big promise he's making.

In following through on assurances that we will have a good environment along with good jobs, I hope the governor will insist state government agencies lobby each other for the following:

(1) Insist on adequate funding and staffing for his new cabinet level Department of Environmental Protection,

(2) Insist that the legislature implement the anti-degradation provisions of the Cleanwater Act other than by industry's "dirty water" bill,

(3) Advocate for more responsible timbering and logging practices,

(4) Require adequate reclamation bonds for coal mining operations,

(5) Remember that West Virginia's wind resources are a part of our energy mix, along with the coal, oil and gas reserves he promotes, and

(6) Bring American Electric Power and other air polluters into the clean air technology era the governor says he wants to usher in.

I sincerely felt that the governor's State of the State address to the legislature, delivered on Valentine's Day, came from the heart. I hope that it was from his "heart of hearts," rather than from a detached, political heart.

Logging Reform in West Virginia

by Jim Sconyers, WV Sierra Club

Do we need it? Is there a problem?

Ask my friend in Webster County. He noticed a neighbor had a logging job starting so he went out with a bucket of paint to mark his property line - just to make sure there could be no mistaking where to stop. The next day he found they not only cut trees on his property, they also cut trees he had marked for the boundary.

Or ask another friend in Braxton County about the day he noticed a stream running very muddy. He follows it up a quarter mile or so and discovers the reason. A log job has logged right up to the bank, and run the haul road right through the stream - no culverts, no nothing - totally illegal.

Or another friend in McDowell County who watched as a totally irresponsible operation cut everything up to the bank, even dropping trees right into the stream. Tops and slash were left in a tangled mess, with the creek choked with debris and mess. She got so incensed she made a videotape of the wreckage.

Ask me about illegal log jobs here in Preston County. One bulldozed the whole landscape, including plowing right through bogs and streams, creating acres of such deep, gooey mud that once I stepped in I thought I wouldn't be able to get out. What did the WV Division of Forestry (DOF) have to say about it? Was this illegal? Yes. Would there be any consequences for the illegal logging that had been going on for weeks? No.

And so it goes.

Are these the rotten apples that spoil the whole barrel? Probably - even though when the DOF carried out random inspections of logging sites it found 24%, about one out of every four, out of compliance with what are only the most lax of timber regulations.

For the sake of contrast, talk with my longtime friend in Hampshire County, a professional consulting forester with a strong ethic of responsibility and stewardship. He works with landowners who come to him for help in planning for logging on their land. He advises them how to identify a responsible logger, how to effectively protect the land and water, and how to guarantee that their forest will remain attractive and ecologically healthy.

So you can see that responsible logging does exist. We just need more of it.

Enough said? Logging in West Virginia needs reform. We need to improve the basic law that regulates logging, and to strengthen enforcement of the law. We need some basic changes:

Logging jobs need to be approved before they start.

Neighbors need advance notice.

Logging jobs need bonding to assure proper reclamation, just like our other extractive industries.

Special care must be given on steep slopes.

Funding for enforcement and regulation must be improved.

You can help. Call your state senator and delegate. They need to hear that you want them to support improvement of logging regulation and enforcement.

Send photos, videos, and "horror stories" to us to compile to support our work for logging reform. Send them to jims@labs.net or Jim Sconyers, Rt. 2 Box 84, Terra Alta, WV 26764. We will maintain your confidentiality and anonymity.

This Sculpture Could Be Yours

WV artist and longtime WVEC member Mark Blumenstein has donated one of his wonderful sculptures for a fundraising raffle to support our legislative lobby effort.

The sculpture, "Sunrise Broaching," is on display throughout the legislative session at Taylor Books in Charleston, and they will also be selling tickets for us. Our web page, www.wvecouncil.org, also has a picture of the piece. Tickets can also be purchased at the WVEC/WVCAG office or from WVEC board members. If you would like to order a raffle ticket for this excellent piece (valued by the artist at over $500) send in $5 to WVEC Raffle, 1324 Virginia St. E., Charleston, WV 25301 and we'll send you your stub by return mail.

Many of you have friends who would purchase a ticket. When you send in for yours ask us for extra blanks for you friends and help us make this a successful fundraiser for our lobby effort.

We will draw the winning ticket at the E-Council "end-of-the-session-party" held the session's final night.


TMDL Meetings

The Office of Water Resources is hosting a series of informational meetings about the basics of TMDL development and water quality issues. It is anticipated that the following streams will be included: Paint Creek (impaired by aluminum and pH), Lower Elk River ( mouth upstream to Big Sandy Creek, impaired by aluminum, lead, iron and zinc, Flat Fork Creek (impaired by PCBs), and Stony River (impaired by PCBs). A complete list of the streams and their tributaries can be found at www.dep.state.wv.us.

Meetings still to take place are:

Lower Elk River/Flat Fork Creek, 7 p.m., Feb. 20, Elkview Middle School and Paint Creek, 6:30 PM, Feb. 27, Lower Paint Creek Association Office, Gallagher.

For additional information, please contact DEP's Jessica Welsh by e-mail (JWELSH@mail.dep.state.wv.us) or by phone at 304-558-2108.


Help Encourage Composting

by Jim Sconyers, WV Sierra Club

Compost happens! Or does it?

Yard waste has been banned from landfills since 1997. Valuable organic waste would be recycled by composting it.

Now there is a proposal to change a key rule. Today composting is required when "practicable." The change would require composting only when "available."

What a difference a word makes! The present rule encourages towns and cities to set up composting programs. The proposed change would do just the opposite - if you don't compost now, you don't need to ever. This would make it unlikely that we would meet an official goal of reducing our solid waste by 50% by 2010.

Here we have another classic "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." The present rule encourages composting, reduces and recycles useful materials, and extends the life-span of landfills. The proposed change would gut the rule. In effect it would negate the clear intent of the Legislature.

Please call and write members of the legislative rulemaking committee who will be deciding the question. Tell them: "Don't change the yard waste rule!"

If you are in their district, you have even more leverage. Be sure to call! If you are not in the district, please call and write anyway. (see www.legis.state.wv.us for committee info. More contact info in future Updates).

You don't need to write a thick document. Just say "Composting is important. It recycles useful materials. It keeps landfills from filling up too soon. And it provides a valuable product for gardening and landscape work. Please VOTE AGAINST changing the yard waste rule." Or say it your way - that's even better!


Quick Word on Dereg From W

"The California crunch really is the result of not enough power-generating plants and then not enough power to power the power of generating plants."

The Dirty Clean Water & Good Snow Jobs Bill

by Norm Steenstra, Executive Director, WV-CAG

This week, the united environmental community began its 12th year of lobbying at the legislative session. It's also the 12th year that we have published the weekly Green Legislative Update. A dozen years of hard lobbying and over a hundred Update issues are quite an accomplishment. Congratulations and thanks to the scores of you that have made this streak possible and effective. This is also the first time I won't be coordinating the lobby team and that makes me happy. I'll be lobbying for WV-CAG, but working closely with the WVEC team . Be kind to Gary Zuckett as he becomes the chief border collie for our herd of cats.

There is a theme and a spin emerging this session concerning environmental issues. Briefly, the theme is "dirty water-dirty politics." The spin uttered by industry lobbyists, legislators and the governor in his state of the state speech is: Enviros are too confrontational, and it's mean and nasty for us to call their bill the "dirty water" bill. Industry desperately wants to avoid having its bill portrayed as negative and "dirty water-dirty politics" is WVEC's message. I like it because it's a link, a connection between the tactics of powerful special interest groups and their drive to further degrade our state's waters. If you have any doubts, check out the 1998 People's Election Reform Coalition (PERC) report on legislative donations. PERC found that nearly 30% of all money given to legislators came from the Dirty Water Coalition! Ever wonder where the chip on green lobbyist shoulders comes from?

The Dirty Water Coalition dubs the bill the "clean water, good jobs bill." It is interesting and perhaps revealing that the concept of further polluting our water for corporate profits is not considered contentious. One delegate publicly admonished WVEC President Don Garvin for referring to the industry bill as the "dirty water" bill. The other side wants to tone down the rhetoric (ours only) and dictate the terms of debate. They want us to not only accept a terrible policy, but forfeit one of our most effective means of getting the public's attention. Over the years we have successfully defeated horrible legislation by calling a spade a spade. "Cancer Creek", "Dirty Secrets'', "Flood Thy Neighbor" and the "Jurassic Park" bills are examples of calling attention to the real definition of industry legislation.

The Water Wars are beginning and your water is at risk. Connect a successful dirty water bill with a Bush-led US EPA and picture the future of West Virginia's water quality. You can believe industry propaganda and call it the "Clean Water" bill, yet Don Garvin's dirty water tag is accurate. I think he'll agree with me that it also could be called the "filthy dirty water" bill. But whatever you do, don't let anyone call it the clean water bill.


Contact Your Legislators

To leave messages for your legislators, call 1-877-565-3447 toll free. Or write to:

The Honorable _____________

Member, WV Senate/House of Delegates

Bldg. 1, State Capitol Complex

Charleston, WV 25305

You can fax letters to (304) 347-4819.

And you can go on-line to www.legis.state.wv.us for bill tracking, committee announcements, public hearing announcements, floor calendars and daily and weekly floor actions.


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