Weekly Round-Up

By Isabel Stellato and Lucia Valentine, WVEC Lobbyists

WVEC had a busy week at the legislature! E-Day came and went on Tuesday, February 13, and several environmental advocates and students joined us to make their voices heard throughout the Capitol! 

As we move closer to Crossover Day (February 28), we are working on several key bills to ensure they hit their respective committee agendas in time. On the other hand, several harmful bills are sitting in committees – let’s help keep them there! 

As always, lawmakers need to hear from you! Legislators may not have the time to research and understand the implications of each bill that comes across their desk – that’s where you come in. Stay tuned for action alerts next week as the session enters its final weeks.

Bills to Support:

SB 532 – The Orphaned Well Prevention Act 

While the Orphaned Well Prevention Act (OWPA) – SB 532 and HB 5414 – has not moved this week, we continue educating legislators about its importance. The OWPA requires West Virginia oil and gas well operators to set aside money for future well plugging so that the cost does not fall on taxpayers or landowners – check out our fact sheet to learn more. We expect this bill to run in the Senate Energy, Industry, & Mining Committee next week and will continue tracking its movement through the Senate and House. 

What you can do: If you haven’t done so already, please contact your senators on the Energy, Industry, & Mining Committee and Finance Committee and ask them to support SB 532 in its current form. On the House side, tell your delegates in the Energy & Manufacturing Committee and Finance Committee to support HB 5414.

SB 638 – Community Solar Pilot Program

We have two Community Solar Pilot Program Bills – SB 638 and HB 5626. The Senate bill was referred to the Economic Development Committee. We are speaking with committee members about the pilot program and how it could benefit West Virginians by lowering our electric utility costs. The House bill was introduced on Monday and referred to the House Energy and Manufacturing Committee and Judiciary Committee. Read more about Community Solar here

What you can do: Urge members of the Senate Economic Development Committee to support SB 638 and House Energy and Manufacturing Committee members to bring community solar to West Virginia!

HB 5422 – Net Metering 

HB 5422 has yet to move since its introduction. We are focusing on the bill’s first reference to the House Energy & Manufacturing Committee by speaking with those members and answering any questions they may have about the bill. We met with Chairman Anderson and Speaker Hanshaw (sponsor) to reaffirm the importance of making this bill a priority for consideration by the committee. Citizen lobbyists joined us for E-day and met with their representatives on community solar and net metering. 

This bill would require the Public Service Commission (PSC) to uphold the full retail credit for net metering in West Virginia. We support this bill because it would encourage the use of net metering across the state and positively impact community solar programs in the future. To learn more about net metering in WV, click here for information from West Virginians For Energy Freedom and here.

What you can do: Reach out to your legislators on the House Energy & Manufacturing Committee and the Judiciary Committee, urging them to support HB 5422 to uphold the net metering full retail credit! Protect West Virginia solar! And take this quick action from our partners at the Sierra Club to support both solar bills!

HB 5624 – Surface Owners Rights

Good news! HB 5624, relating to surface owners’ rights, passed the House Energy Committee yesterday and heads to the House Judiciary next. The bill would make it easier for surface owners to find out who owns the minerals underneath their property in county records, track the sale and purchase of those minerals, or purchase them if they wish. 

What you can do: Contact House Judiciary Committee members and ask them to support HB 5624.

Dave McMahon provided the HB 5624 update — thanks Dave!

Bills to Oppose: 

HB 5018 – Community Air Monitoring Bill 

HB 5018 passed the House and was introduced in the Senate on 2/7, with a single reference to the Senate Energy, Industry, and Mining Committee. We continue to express our concerns to legislators, namely our judicial concerns with the bill and how it discourages and restricts citizen participation in monitoring their air quality. 

This bill asserts that data collected from purple air monitors cannot be used by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for regulatory or attainment purposes, which would have a chilling effect on citizen monitoring. 

What you can do: Contact Senate Energy, Industry, and Mining Committee members and urge them to REJECT HB 5018 and protect citizen air monitoring!

HB 5076 – Loosening Well-Plugging Regulations

This bill would loosen regulations on well plugging and prevent landowners from suing operators over abandoned unplugged wells. There are concerns that this bill would act as a legal shield for Diversified Energy Co., the nation’s largest owner/operator of gas and oil wells. Under the legislation, the company could take 480 years to plug its wells. The bill passed through the committee, with only two opposing delegates, and heads to the House Judiciary Committee, where it has been sitting since 2/12. 

What you can do: Urge delegates on the House Judiciary Committee to REJECT HB 5076 and protect landowners’ rights to take legal action to ensure wells on their property get plugged. Stay tuned to WVEC’s emails and social media posts for upcoming ways to take additional action. 

To contact us, email isabelrstellato@gmail.com or luciavalentine10@gmail.com. Thank you for all you do and for making your voice heard at the Capitol! We appreciate your support! Let us know if you can join us for a day of lobbying!

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