By Lucia Valentine and Maria Russo, WVEC Lobbyists
This week at the legislature was a busy one! As we approach the last two weeks of session, the pressure is on to get bills out of committee by Crossover Day (March 1st) to be considered on the floor.
We are focusing this week on bills that are moving, separated by bills we are working on getting passed and those we are trying to defeat, along with steps you can take to support the efforts.
The last day for bills to pass committees in their chamber of origin is Sunday, February 26th, with Crossover Day quickly approaching on March 1st!
Bills We Support
SB627 – Establishing a solar program for subscribers to gain credits against their utility bills
Sponsors: Rucker (Lead), Oliverio
Last Action: Introduced on 2/14 and referred to Senate Government Organization Committee
Summary: This bill creates a community solar program where individuals, businesses, and organizations can purchase or subscribe to a “share” in a locally sited solar panel array and use credits against their electric utility costs. This legislation establishes parameters and conditions for the program and provides for administration and rulemaking by the Public Service Commission. Community solar offers the benefit of solar to those who can’t, or prefer not to, install solar panels on their own homes.
We are working on securing bipartisan support for these bills in both the House and Senate.
Office of Oil and Gas Inspector Funding
HB 3110 – Relating to funding the Office of Oil and Gas in the Department of Environmental Protection. Companion bill to SB 448 (above).
Sponsors: Anderson (Lead), Zatezalo, Horst, Hansen, Fehrenbacher, Cooper, Martin, Young, Hardy, Heckert
Last Action: Passed the House on 2/24 and is headed to Senate Finance
Action Opportunity: Please contact the Senate Finance Committee regarding HB3110. The message: Please bring West Virginia in line with our neighbors in Pennsylvania and Ohio to fully staff the WV DEP’s Office of Oil and Gas with at least 40 inspectors to help ensure proper enforcement of regulations and safeguard public health.
Clean Drinking Water
HB 3189 – The PFAS Protection Act
Sponsors: Riley (Lead), Hansen, Westfall, Clark, Horst, Hanshaw (Mr. Speaker), Hornby, Steele, Storch, Hardy, Hillenbrand
Last Action: Passed the House on 2/24; tracking for where it will land in the Senate
Summary: The PFAS Protection Act is a follow-up to the Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) 2020 study, which found alarming amounts of PFAS in over 130 water systems in West Virginia (49% of systems). This legislation requires the DEP to develop action plans to identify and address the sources of PFAS in raw water, requires the industry to monitor and report PFAS discharges, and establishes statewide limits on PFAS discharges into water supplies immediately upon the EPA’s issuance of recommended criteria (coming soon). Ultimately, the PFAS Protection Act helps hold polluters responsible for cleaning up PFAS, not water utilities or their ratepayers.
Action Opportunity: Please contact the Senate regarding HB3110
The message: Please support this legislation. West Virginians deserve clean drinking water, and this bill protects our water systems across the state from toxic chemical pollution.
Bills We Oppose
Forest Carbon Sequestration
HB 3294 – Ensuring future economic development with limitations, excise tax, and registration requirements of carbon offset agreements
Sponsors: Anderson, Zatezalo, Westfall, Fehrenbacher, Street, Crouse, Heckert, Bridges, Holstein, Cooper, Hanshaw (Mr. Speaker)
Last Action: Passed House Energy committee on 2/8 and awaits action in House Finance
Summary: Both of these bills change the Managed Timberland Program in the following ways: 1.) threatens landowners’ eligibility in the program even if a landowner chooses to harvest timber 2.) imposes new taxes that limit landowners’ choices 3.) dictates the types of contracts landowners can enter. This bill would effectively kill the opportunity and incentive for landowners to practice stewardship and gain forestry support to maintain their managed timberland.
SB 595 – Relating to real property, tax, and registration requirements associated with carbon offset agreements
Sponsors: Tarr, Martin, Woodrum
Last Action: Introduced in the Senate on 2/9 and referred to the Finance committee
Summary: See the above summary (HB3294).
Action Opportunity: Please contact the Senate Finance Committee regarding SB 595 and the House Finance Committee regarding HB 3294. The message: I urge you to vote NO on HB 3294/SB 595 and reject this harmful policy that threatens the freedom of West Virginia forest owners. The Nature Conservancy and the West Virginia Land and Mineral Owners Association also oppose these bills.
SB 468 – Continuing Cabwaylingo State Forest Trail System
Sponsors: Hamilton, Maynard, Stover, Plymale, Taylor, Stuart, Karnes
Last Action: Committee Substitute failed to pass previously. The original bill or a committee substitute may return to the Senate Outdoor Recreation Committee in the next few days.
Action Opportunity: Contact Senate Outdoor Recreation Committee members and tell them WV citizens do NOT want off-road vehicles on our state parks, forests, wildlife areas and rail trails.
HB3446 – Clarifying the powers and duties of the Public Service Commission as to electric generating facilities
Sponsors: Howell, Anderson, Westfall, Marple, Storch, Keaton, Maynor
Last Action: Introduced in the House on 2/14 and referred to House Energy. It was posted on the House Energy agenda this week but was pulled.
Summary: This bill extends the PSC’s jurisdiction over electric generating facilities, exempting these facilities from local control. An exemption like this takes away protections in residential areas and has the power to change the landscape of communities. A public hearing on this bill is being held on Monday, 2/27.
Bills We Are Watching
HB2814– To create a Hydrogen power task force
Last Action: Passed out of House Energy on 2/24 and is headed to the floor for consideration
Summary: This bill establishes a Hydrogen power task force to study hydrogen-fueled energy in West Virginia.
SB2896 – Relating to making West Virginia an Agreement State with the U. S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Sponsors: Anderson (Lead), Zatezalo, Hanshaw (Mr. Speaker), Smith, Riley, Foster, Steele, Tully, Young, Summers, Hott
Last Action: After receiving a committee substitute in House Finance, this bill passed the House and was referred to Senate Economic Development.
Summary: The purpose of this bill is further the process of West Virginia becoming an Agreement State with the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission, transferring authority and responsibility over sources of low-level radiation from other state agencies to the Department of Environmental Protection and thereby establishing a more comprehensive regulatory system to control sources of low-level radiation for the protection of the public and the environment in a single state agency.
Keep an eye out for action alerts! Things will continue to move quickly these last few weeks as we work to champion our priority bills across the finish line. If you have any questions or concerns about any bills, please reach out to Lucia Valentine (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Maria Russo (email@example.com).