WVEC Legislative Update
March 16, 2001
E-Day! March 21st
Please plan on attending the WVEC's annual E-Day! Festivities, Wednesday,
March 21, at the state Capitol. The fun starts at 10 AM in the lower Rotunda and
2nd floor Senate side Hall and goes until 4PM.
Come see displays featuring organizations from around the state including the
West Virginia Environmental Council, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition (OVEC),
Tyler Mountain Community Association, WV Native American Council, Coal River
Mountain Watch, WV Eco-Tourism Coalition, Mountaineer Chapter Trout Unlimited,
WV Citizen Action Group (CAG), WV Sierra Club, WV Organizing Project, Coalition
For Responsible Logging, WV Highlands Conservancy, Friends of Coonskin, WV
Environmental Advocates Office /DEP, Stewards of the Potomac Highlands, the
North American Coalition on Religion & Ecology, Citizens Coal Council and
Sustainable Fair 2001.
Award presentations are at 11:00 AM (for more on awardees, please see page 5.
Plan to stick around after E-Day to lobby your legislators and then attend
the evening's fundraisers.
Taylor Books E-Day! Wine & Cheese Reception/Fundraiser ~ 5 till 7
p.m. Listen to the sounds of Steve Himes and view "Sunrise Broaching"
the Sculpture donated to WVEC by Mark Blumenstein. Refreshments, raffle
tickets for Blumenstein Sculpture available.
Annual E-Day! Fundraiser at the Empty Glass ~ 7:30 till 1:00 AM, 410
Elizabeth Street, Charleston. Entertainment featuring Rick Rivard, Maggie &
Basil Crawford Native American music; Rolling Blackouts fun band from
Huntington; Ed "Uncle Eddie" Mahonen, from Wheeling - on banjo &
guitar; and The Voodoo Katz.
See You There!!
Session Half-Time Report
by Norm Steenstra, WV-CAG Executive Director
The Wise Administration's first legislative session is half over and there's
little to write home about. The political jockeying between the governor and the
legislative leadership continues with each side reminding the other that it is
the one in control. Perhaps this year's biggest unreported story is that special
interest lobbyists are really the ones who seem to be in control of the issues.
Call it the "honeymoon" or "mansion magic" or just the
potential power of the governor. It is taking nearly all of Bob Wise's assets to
keep his legislative agenda alive. The tobacco lobbyists and their allies like
Go-Mart, Rite-Aid and the Retailers' Association are giving Wise fits on the
smokeless tobacco tax. The huge gambling lobby is doing just what we predicted
by speaking out of both sides of its mouth. Its lobbyists claim that they want
to be taxed and regulated and but are, at the same time, trying to minimize the
regulation and the tax. The beat goes on.
The "Dirty Water" lobby has recently been very successful in
forcing the DEP to dilute its "Not Quite So Dirty Water" bill to more
closely resemble industry's sewer pipe dream. The way the negotiations are going
it should really be called the "least quality denominator" bill.
Long-time Update readers have often heard green lobbyists whine about the
other side's lobby power. And although you're probably sick of hearing about it,
it is depressing to face that kind of power day in and day out.
Although it happened in Washington not Charleston this week, We were reminded
once again of Coal's long and powerful tentacles of influence. Bush the
Pretender totally welched on his campaign promise to pursue stricter regulation
of coal burning power plants. The local news correctly spun the decision as a
great victory for the coal lobby.
The same kind of clout was evident Thursday when the US Senate voted
overwhelmingly to tighten bankruptcy laws and give the credit card companies and
the banks exactly what they lobbied for.
Yeah, the beat goes on but there is some hope for the long-range survival of
our democracy. Senator Byrd outraged over the influence of money in our
political system took what I consider to be the most courageous act of his
career by introducing a constitutional amendment allowing congress to limit
campaign spending. CAG and WVEC lobbyists immediately asked Delegate Mary Pearl
Compton and Sen. Jon Hunter to sponsor a resolution praising Byrd for his rare
act of courage. Watch for it to be out by E-Day!.
With 4 weeks left in the session the one thing we can predict is that stuff
will heat up and get a lot more interesting. Another safe prediction is that
major issues like smokeless tobacco, gray machines and dirty water will be
decided in the session's last week. Stay tuned.
Don't Waste Yard Waste
Two bills are threatening the progress made on composting municipal yard
waste. HB 2670 & SB332 deal with a rule change to eliminate mandatory
composting of municipal yard waste. This was done by changing the word
"practical" to "available" in the enacting rule (33CSR3)
which allows the DEP Director to grant exemptions to cities and towns "when
none of the foregoing options (for composting yard waste) are practical available."
Contact the Judiciary Committee members of both the House and Senate and ask
them to return the rule to its original wording.
Yard Waste is Solid Waste!
Senator Deem introduces a bill every year to eliminate yard waste from the
official definition of solid waste. This year's bill, SB 12, is single
referenced to Senate Natural Resources. The main problem with the bill is that
commercial composting facilities would then be completely unregulated. Compost
is not high-tech, but if not done properly, odors and community bad-will are
Not everyone in the solid waste business is reputable. There are numerous
cases of hazardous materials being mixed with materials to be composted as a way
to circumvent expensive, responsible disposal of those hazardous materials.
Regulation of commercial composting facilities is necessary to ensure a safe,
marketable product. Contact members of the Natural Resources Solid Waste
Subcommittee (see below) and ask them to vote "no" on SB12. For more
information, see Tom Degen's piece on SB 12 in our Green
Subterfuge in Sub-Committee?
The Senate Natural Resources committee appointed two sub-committees this
week. One is "to study state park cost of operation and repair" and
the other to study solid waste issues.
Senator Anderson is chair of the Parks group and Senator Snyder is head of
the one on solid waste. Other members are: Ross, Love, Minear (Parks) and Ross,
Minear, Minard, and Rowe (Solid Waste).
Rumors abound as to the intent of both these committees. Will they seek to
privatize state parks? Roll back or weaken our solid waste laws? Senator Snyder
has scheduled a meeting of his committee for 4PM on Monday in 208W and has
indicated that universal collection will be on the agenda. Stay tuned!
Jobs V. Environment
by Norm Steenstra III
For the 7th year in a row, pro-industry legislators have introduced the Jobs
Impact Bill. This bill would be bad for our state's workers because it would
allow the various members of our government to poison environmental and labor
bills, forcing them to be put on the shelf for a third of the session. There was
a public meeting at 4:00 on March 15th in the House Chamber, for both sides to
present their views regarding the bill. Only seven speakers were present, four
in favor and three opposed to the bill. Industry, the Development Office and
coal all spoke in favor of this bill.
Steve White of the ACT Foundation stated that our state currently doesn't
have the resources to effectively enact this bill. He proved this by releasing a
study on a company that the Development Office had given a grant to so that the
company could expand. However the study concluded by finding out that the
company had in fact downsized and had fewer employees after receiving the grant
than before. CAG and WVEC also provided staunch opposition to the bill, by
explaining that it was nothing more than a roadblock for the passage of
pro-environmental or pro-labor bills.
We would like to thank K.O. Damron for his proclaiming us experts on
roadblocks, but we would prefer to decline having to go through anymore to pass
WV friendly bills.
Water Wars Barely Perking
by Nathan Fetty and Donald S. Garvin, Jr.
Legislative movement on the antidegradation rule is barely trickling along.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jon Amores put together a series of
"stakeholder" meetings but they have yielded little.
Industry has yet to agree to any provisions other than those in their own
Dirty Water Bill. And the highlight of Wednesday's meeting was an angry industry
denouncement of DEP's map that depicts what areas are off-limits to development
in the DEP plan.
"Foul," they cried! "Misleading and deceitful," they
lamented! This, after industry had circulated its own preposterous map claiming
that virtually the whole state would be closed to development and business if a
strong antideg bill was implemented. The gall of these folks!
Both House and Senate Leaderships seem to be counting on the House Judiciary
negotiations to result in a different bill than the one the Dirty Water
Coalition has brought them. Leadership also seems to be hoping that the DEP
version of antideg will take the heat off the legislature itself and stand up to
the scrutiny of the federal EPA.
Does this mean that the Dirty Water Bill is dead? Of course not. We won't
know for sure until Day 61, the day after the last night of the session.
As for the DEP bill, we like the fact that the expert agency is writing this
very technical rule instead of industry, but we're not happy with everything
that's in it. For instance, existing permits aren't required to go through
antideg review, and nationwide permits (the ones used to permit large valley
fills from mountaintop removal operations) are exempt as well. Also effectively
exempted are nonpoint sources of pollution (like timbering and agriculture, a
couple of the biggest sources of water pollution). Throughout the proposal, DEP
would be given broad discretion whether or not to require antideg reviews not
such a hot idea if we have a hands-off administration.
Although DEP has included a Tier 2.5 designation the list of waters of
special concern, like reproducing trout streams, that industry threw out of the
Dirty Water Bill DEP has yet to produce a new list of these waters.
Hopefully, we will see the completed list next week. This list is critical to
our support of any antideg proposal.
So what actions can you take on this issue? Keep up the calls to Governor
Wise, DEP Director Callaghan and your local senators and delegates (contact info
on page 7). Tell them to kill the Dirty Water Bill and support a strong
antidegradation rule to protect our clean rivers and streams. Come to E-Day next
week, visit your lawmakers in person, and tell them to flush the Dirty Water
Bill down the drain.
IN ADDITION, the marathon negotiating sessions are open to the public and
we'd love to see some faces there other than those of high-paid industry
lobbyists (who are there in force). Your presence will tell lawmakers that
citizens really do care about protecting our clean rivers and streams. As of
now, the sessions will be on Monday, Wednesday and Friday of next week in the
House Minority Committee Meeting Room on the main floor of the Capitol, to
the left of the House Chamber at 3:30 p.m. Call West Virginia Rivers Coalition
at (304) 637-7201 or WVEC at (304) 346-5905 to get up-to-the-minute schedules.
Letter of Support
I thought I'd drop you a line and let you know how much I appreciate your
tireless work for this region.
The first E-Day I attended was when I was in the 4th grade. I became a member
of WVEC in 7th grade. I am now a freshman in high school and plan on making it
to the next E-Day.
Much of the work you do is probably ignored or unrewarded. I would have to
imagine that's frustrating. Please hang in there. Your group provides a
much-needed voice of sanity and reason when many local leaders and the
government turn a blind eye to things.
Thanks so much for doing what you do.
(Editor's note: We received this letter late last month from a renewing
member -- thank you!!)
Coal Synchronizes Multi-front Attack
By Rick Eades, OVEC
Whoo! Whoo! All aboard the Almost-Hell-Yes Express. She's coal-fired, and
everybody who's anybody is finding ways to stoke King Coal's furnace or going
along for the ride.
President Bush reverses his campaign pledge to reduce coal's favorite
greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide. After appointing industry advocate Gale Norton
to the overseer throne of mining, this action confirms Bush is committed to
re-writing the early chapters of the book of Revelations. To no one's surprise,
"let the planet boil" is the official position of the Executive
Next door, Senator Robert C. Byrd (with ample support for Senate Bill 60)
wants to add a new dimension to corporate welfare, by offering up $100 million a
year of taxpayer money to "Mr. Clean-To-You" Coal. This "clean
coal" legislation is so clean, the bill wants a 10-year pass from
provisions of the Clean Air Act for new power plants. Oh yeah, it provides heavy
incentives to build new coal-fired power plants and nothing for alternative
energy and conservation.
Byrd implies new coal-fired plants will replace old polluting plants.
Meanwhile, West Virginia's John Amos power plant continues to belch about 44
tons of lead, 25 tons of arsenic, and 12 tons of mercury into the air annually
(1998 data). Amos delivers the largest production of electricity in the state's
history and the chance of shutting it down in such a poor state is..?
Consider the Legislative Branch on board with plans to further load the air,
water, and soil with toxic heavy metals.
So what's up in the Judicial Branch? The hyper-conservative US 4th District
Court of Appeals looms likely to reverse or weaken Judge Haden's decision that
would limit the size of mountaintop removal mining valley fills. The Courts
appear to be taking up residence in coal's camp too, and burying 1,000 miles of
headwaters in one state is a mere beginning.
Enabling from every branch of government is nothing new for coal, but the
level and synchronicity is new, especially in light of recent news regarding
Consider the new poster-child of coal-based environmental disasters, last
October's 250,000,000 gallon slurry "spill" from a coal waste
"pond" in Martin County, Kentucky. No release in US history has been
larger, and yet it seems almost forgotten.
What we can't forget is that at least 97 similar "ponds" pock WV's
coalfields. As if it wasn't obvious, the Kentucky spill totally wiped out life
in the receiving streams, and left serious, long-term risks to water supplies.
It left sludge which contains arsenic, lead, and components of fuel oil lining
about 75 miles of streams and rivers.
So here's a great idea let's expand Raleigh County's Brushy Fork slurry
impoundment until the dam reaches 920 feet in height, to store as much as
5,000,000,000 gallons of coal cleaning slurry, directly over underground mine
workings. No problem, regulatory officials are on the job, just like they were
under eerily similar circumstances in Martin County, Ky. OVEC, the Coal River
Mountain Watch, and Marshall student activism group (SAFE) joined local
residents on March 1 in filing an appeal to the permit renewal.
These impoundments loom over headwater environments and downstream water
supply intakes forever. As every geologist will agree, it's not a matter of
"if" this colossal volume of waste material will erode and redeposit
in our nations streams and rivers, it's only a matter of "when."
So, besides the avalanche of evidence that burning coal pollutes our air and
contributes to global warming, processing waste from coal leaves nightmares for
posterity, and extracting coal will continue to lop off mountains, fill streams,
and expand undermining of homes, churches, and even Interstate highways
decision-makers at every level are promoting coal.
If it wasn't enough that coal operators, regulators, and all branches of US
government together are stoking the boiler, make room for the West Virginia
The Senate EIM committee acted on March 14 to turn several provisions of
surface mining laws (SB 239, next stop Senate Judiciary) into soft serve. To
prepare the stage for fast track approval of mountaintop removal and deep mine/longwall
permits, EIM adopted DEP's recommendations to: (1) weaken valley fill/stream
protection regulations; (2) made mush of a new definition of material damage to
residents and water supplies (damage must be "long term or
permanent"); and get this, (3) allow land subsidence damage to go unabated
for an underdetermined period of time, "if the subsidence is not
What? And wait how long after the highways collapse, or churches cave in
before we repair the damage? Until all the honeycombed earth has collapsed;
after all the long wall mining; brought on by all the taxpayer-financed gifts
Byrd wants to bestow on Our Sisters-of-the-Needy Coal? Maybe a call to your
legislators is in order.
This mega-muscle backlash to facilitate coal can be largely tied to the Haden
decision to limit valley fills in streams. But, this seems more like the stuff
of paramilitary novels. On how many fronts can coal attack at once? How many can
you think of? Certainly, Bill Raney, a colonel in the National Guard, is
enjoying this multi-prong attack.
Is there any end to the enabling by lawmakers, judges, and enforcement
agencies to bolster King Coal? To even the most tepid environmentalist, I say,
God help us. Because coal interests are certainly helping themselves.
While we may pray that the combined folly of devastation from coal
extraction, processing, waste disposal, and air emissions doesn't create
absolute waste lands, let's also pray that future generations will forgive those
who at least tried to slow this energy-drunk madness.
If you can't imagine how to turn around such a runaway train, at least you
can immediately turn off every electrical appliance or use possible and
strongly advocate others do the same. Advocate that our "leaders" push
equally hard for fuel cell development (a truthfully clean energy source).
Otherwise, consider yourself complicit in fueling the train of destruction.
by Julie Archer
On Wednesday, HB 2222 was amended in the Senate Judiciary Committee to
include the language from Senator Unger's version, SB 384. A proposal by Senator
Hunter (SB 406) which authroizes litter control officers to issue citations for
littering was also added to the bill.
The bill was up for a final vote today in the full Senate. The amended
version passed with no opposition and now goes back to the House. Should the
House refuse to accept the Senate changes, a conference committee will be
appointed to come up with a compromise. Stay tuned.
To track bills on-line, go to www.legis.state.wv.us
Do you want a mountaintop removal mine facing the Kanawha River? The
Pritchard Mining Company has a proposed mining project that would do just that.
Please plan on attending an informal conference concerning this mine on Monday,
March 19 at 5PM at the East Bank City Hall Conference Room in East Bank. If you
have anything to say on this proposed mining project, the time in now!
Still Shameless, Still Pleading
We are at the session's half-way mark, and we still striving to met the
financial goals for funding this year's lobby effort. We do have a couple of
fundraisers upcoming, but unless more of you more of US dig down deeper
into your pockets and hearts, we will come up short. We have a dedicated group
of talented and hard-working individuals out there fighting the good fight every
day of the session. Please do what you can to help out.
So if you haven't renewed your WVEC membership, please do so today. And if
you have renewed or bought raffle tickets, please consider sending something
extra, or buying more raffle tickets (raffles tickets are available by sending
$5 a ticket to 1324 Virginia St., E, Charleston, WV 25301. You don't need to be
present to win at April 14 drawing. We'll send your ticket back to you in the
And please try to attend the E-Day! fundraisers on Wednesday night, March 21
(see front page). There will be great music, folks and fun. Meet the lobby team
you have supported with your donations. Come out and celebrate the work we all
do to protect West Virginia's environment. Thanks for your support. We couldn't
do it without you.
Correction and Explanation
In reading the bill lists we provided, some of you may have gotten the
impression that Del. Virginia Mahan was a sponsor of the Dirty Water Bill.
That's not the case, and, in fact, Del. Mahan cast one of the three votes
against the measure. The confusion is caused by the procedure which was used to
move the bill, which was approved in the joint Legislative Rulemaking Committee
and therefore became the committee bill. Del. Mahan is co-chair of that
committee, and so her name appeared on our list as a sponsor. We are correcting
our list to clear up this confusion.
Bassage Gets New DEP Post
New DEP Director Mike Callaghan announced Thursday that he has appointed
former Small Business Ombudsman Dave Bassage as head of a new DEP
"innovative policy unit." In a press release Callaghan said he expects
the move to result in new ideas on "how we can do things in an
environmentally friendly way and also let business develop." Many of you
know Dave Bassage as the former executive director of Friends of the Cheat and
current board member of the West Virginia Rivers Coalition. Congratulations,
Salute To The Best of The Greens
WVEC is proud to announce its 2001 E-Day! award winners. The Mother Jones
Award goes to Jim Sconyers who, for a decade, has been one of the most
diligent watch guards of the Mon Forest, the Blackwater Canyon and, more
recently, the electric deregulation issue. We are saddened that Jim is leaving
WV for a job in New Hampshire and are thankful to have this chance to honor him.
The Chuck Chambers Public Service award will be presented to Delegate
Mary Pearl Compton who, for the last dozen years, has been the most consistent
voice for social justice and environmental protection in the Legislature.
The Grassroots Activist Award this year should really be called the
Cyberspace Pro Award for Chris Hogbin's amazing e-tree that she has set up and
maintained year-round for the last two years. Her dedication has made our lobby
efforts leaner, meaner and greener.
The Linda Schnautz Environmental Courage Award recognizes co-winners
Jimmy Weekly and Carlos Gore for their brave and stubborn stand against the Arch
Coal Company's mega-mountaintop removal job that shadows their homes and has
destroyed their quality of life.
Hearty congratulations and appreciation to these green leaders from the
entire environmental community!
WVRC To Release Report at E-Day! Press Conference
The West Virginia Rivers Coalition (WVRC) will hold a press conference at
10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, March 21 (E-Day!) in the North Briefing Room of the
Cultural Center at the Capitol Complex in Charleston.
The purpose of the press conference is to release a report entitled,
"Achieving Balance: Improving Public Participation in West Virginia's NPDES
Permitting Process." This report was developed over the course of a
year-long review and analysis of nineteen randomly selected NPDES (National
Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) permits approved by the WV Division of
Environmental Protection (DEP).
WVRC's Permit Analysis Program was formed in May 2000 to promote public
participation in the state's water pollution discharge permitting process by
conducting research, publishing reports, sponsoring workshops, serving as a
resource for permit-related questions, and supporting watershed organizations in
their efforts to watchdog local permits. Program Director Evan Hansen will be on
hand to detail the report, its findings, and the recommendations developed to
enhance DEP's public participation component of the permitting process.
The report's findings and recommendations, as they relate to antidegradation,
will also be discussed. Antidegradation is a required component of the Clean
Water Act intended to keep clean waters clean, and is currently the hottest
environmental issue before the WV Legislature.
WVRC Executive Director Jeremy P. Muller and Renae Bonnett from the Heizer
Manila Watershed Organization will also participate in the press conference.
Background information is available on the web at www.wvrivers.org.
For more information, call (304) 637-7201 or e-mail email@example.com.
Special PBS Program
On Monday, March 26, Bill Moyer's groundbreaking investigative report on the
chemical industry will air nationally on PBS. "Trade Secrets" will
uncover how our health and safety have been put at risk and why powerful forces
within chemical corporations don't want the truth known. Please check your TV
listings for program time.
Promises We Don't Need
In a stunning about face, President George Bush announced this week that he
is opposed to federal rules to curb CO2 emissions. Bush broke a promise made
during the campaign to support CO2 regulations after encountering strong
resistance from coal and oil industries and from Republican allies in Capitol
Hill, reports The Washington Post.
Bush also abandoned EPA Director Christine Todd Whitman who only days ago had
indicated that the Administration would keep its promise to take substantial
action to address global climate change by regulating CO2.
Bush cited an Energy Department study showing that restrictions in CO2
emissions would lead to higher energy prices. Coal and oil industry officials
said Bush's decision ensures a more "balanced" energy and
environmental policy. Industry officials also warned that any effort to cap
carbon emissions would complicate or foil administration efforts to boost
domestic energy production.
Bush Promises to Drill the Arctic
The Administration continues to promote an energy policy calling for oil
drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge, the Front Range of the Rockies, and many
other wild places across the nation. Just as the Administration justifies no
action on climate change due to the "energy crisis," they are arguing
that America must sacrifice its few remaining wildlands for a few month's worth
Bush Promises to Roll Back National Monument Protections
With much fanfare, Interior Secretary Norton recently announced that the
Administration would not overturn the National Monuments created by President
Clinton. Nobody mentioned that President Bush doesn't have the power to revoke
these designations. However, the President, with help from Congress, can pass
legislation or riders to change National Monument boundaries or allow oil
drilling, off-road vehicles and mining.
Please contact Chief of Staff Andrew Card at 202/456-6797, fax 202/456-1907
and let him know you are very disappointed in President Bush's environmental
policies. Urge the President to:
1. Support regulations reducing CO2 emissions to curb global climate change;
2. Oppose drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge and other wild places; and
3. Oppose opening any National Monuments to mining, oil drilling, off-road
vehicles or other harmful activities.
Governor Wise: firstname.lastname@example.org
(put Senator or Delegate's name in subject line)
or write to:
The Honorable _____________
Member, WV Senate or House of Delegates
Bldg. 1, State Capitol Complex
Charleston, WV 25305
You can fax letters to (304) 347-4819
DEP Director Callaghan: email@example.com
or call 304-759-0570
Call Your Legislators toll-free at: 1-877-565-3447
Call Governor Wise toll-free at: 1-888-438-2731/558-2000 (Charleston)
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.
Send Us Your E-Mail Address!!!
To receive action alerts on the latest issues, e-mail Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Be sure to include your name, address, phone.
WRITE LETTERS TO THE EDITOR!
for addresses of all WV newspapers: