By Lucia Valentine and Maria Russo, WVEC Lobbyists
This week at the legislature was a busy one! As we approach the LAST week of session, the pressure is on to get bills that crossed over out of committee considered on the floor.
Halfway through the session, we changed our format from a weekly round-up to a breakdown of bills that are still alive that we are working on getting passed and those we are trying to defeat, along with steps you can take.
Crossover Day was March 1st, which killed many bills that didn’t crossover from their house of origin in time. Legislators are still working hard, however, to get the remaining bills passed, and a lot can happen in the final week!
Please continue to follow along as we enter the final days of the 2023 legislative session!
Bills We Support
Office of Oil and Gas Inspector Funding
HB 3110 – Relating to funding the Office of Oil and Gas in the Department of Environmental Protection.
Sponsors: Anderson (Lead), Zatezalo, Horst, Hansen, Fehrenbacher, Cooper, Martin, Young, Hardy, Heckert
Last Action: This bill passed the House on 2/23 and was referred to Senate Finance on 2/24. We are working to make sure this bill gets onto the committee’s agenda.
Summary: This bill supports an annual tiered fee to create consistent annual funding for the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WV DEP) to hire more inspectors and properly manage wells. Currently, the WV DEP only has ten inspectors responsible for inspecting more than 75,000 wells across the state.
Action Opportunity: Please contact the Senate Finance Committee regarding HB 3110. 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 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 and was referred to the Senate Government Organization Committee on 2/25.
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 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 Government Organization Committee regarding HB 3189. The message: Tell Senate Government Organization Committee members you want them to pass HB 3189, the PFAS Protection Act, to help protect our drinking water sources! Take action here.
Bills We Oppose:
SB 739 – Relating to a moratorium on carbon capture agreements
Last Action: This bill originated in the Senate Rules Committee on 2/25 and passed quickly. It was referred to House Energy and Manufacturing Committee on 3/2.
Summary: This bill sets a 60-day moratorium on carbon capture agreements effective after the 2023 legislative session. We believe this bill infringes on business and property owner rights; our concerns are outlined in this article.
Severance Taxes on Coal
HB 3133 – Create a credit against the severance tax to encourage private companies to improve the infrastructure of this state’s highways, roads and bridges.
Sponsors: Barnhart, Ferrell, Reynolds
Last Action: This bill passed the House on 3/1 and was referred to Senate Finance on 3/2.
Summary: This legislation provides two significant tax breaks to the coal industry and could cost nearly $100 million annually in the state’s coal severance tax revenue. This bill also limits infrastructure improvements, as the roads and highways credit is limited to $50,000 per project and a total expenditure of $100,000 per year. Read more about our concerns with this bill here.
Action Opportunity: Please contact the Senate Finance Committee regarding HB 3133, and urge them to oppose this bill!
Bills We Are Watching:
SB 468 – Continuing Cabwaylingo State Forest Trail System
Sponsors: Hamilton, Maynard, Stover, Plymale, Taylor, Stuart, Karnes
Last Action: This bill passed the Senate on 3/1 and was referred to and passed by the House Economic Development and Tourism. It is on 1st reading on Friday, 3/3.
Summary: The amended bill continues the Cabwaylingo State Forest Trail System and allows connector trails from public lands to private lands. We are continuing to monitor this bill for dangerous amendments and will keep you posted.
HB 2896- Relating to making West Virginia an Agreement State with the U. S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Sponsors: Anderson, Zatezalo, Hanshaw (Mr. Speaker), Smith, Riley, Foster, Steele, Tully, Young, Summers, Hott
Last Action: Passed the House on 2/15 and was referred to the Senate Economic Development Committee on 2/20.
Summary: This legislation seeks to make West Virginia an agreement state with the US NRC. Section F of the bill, however, opens West Virginia up to nuclear waste dumps. We are advocating for removing any language in the bill that opens our state up to allowing nuclear waste intake.
Action Opportunity: Please contact the Senate Economic Development Committee and tell them you do not want West Virginia to be a dumping site for nuclear waste!