By Lucia Valentine, WVEC Lobbyist
Inspector Funding for the Office of Oil and Gas
SB448 – Providing funding to the Office of Oil and Gas (O&G) for well inspections, was introduced in the Senate this week. Currently, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) Office of Oil and Gas only has nine inspectors responsible for over 75,000 wells. This bill would double the funding for this office and increase inspector numbers from 9 to around 20. This bill allocates 0.75% of the O&G severance tax to the Office of Oil and Gas and adds annual fees depending on the amount produced and the class of wells. Compared to surrounding states, West Virginia has the fewest inspectors per well. While this is a good first step to addressing the inspector crisis, we will still advocate for an increase to around 40 inspectors.
PFAS Protection Act
This week, the PFAS Protection Act, SB485, was introduced in the Senate. This bill, introduced on 1/26/23, has been referred to the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources and Finance committees. We will follow these committee agendas closely and anticipate the introduction of a House version next week.
PFAS chemicals have been found in 130 community water systems across West Virginia. From West Virginia Rivers: “PFAS, commonly known as ‘forever chemicals,’ are man-made toxic compounds that do not break down in the environment. They are found in everyday products like non-stick pans, firefighting foam, waterproof clothing, food packaging, and even dental floss.”
Please see our other newsletter item with action alerts related to PFAS to find out how you can help!
HB2159 would establish a community solar program in West Virginia, legalizing the ability for subscribers to gain credits against their utility bills. Community solar has been a top priority for us leading up to the 2023 session, and we are working on securing bipartisan support for this bill in both the House and Senate.
Read our summary of the Joint Standing Committee on Energy (Interim) meeting on January 13, where stakeholders debated what community solar could mean for West Virginia’s economy, energy market, and ratepayers.
Learn more about community solar here.
Are you curious about how we spend our days? Check out this article from Mountain State Spotlight titled “What do lobbyists actually do at the West Virginia Legislature?” and stay tuned for our “Day in the Life of a Lobbyist” content.