By Isabel Stellato and Lucia Valentine, WVEC Lobbyists
This week’s focus was working to amend HB 5018 (the community air monitoring bill) as it moved through the House, lobbying for the Orphaned Well Prevention Act and following a new bill, HB 5076. We’ve also been prepping for E-Day, which is coming up this Tuesday, February 13. If you missed our E-Day Advocacy Webinar this week, we discussed three bills we’re lobbying for and three we’re lobbying against, while sharing tips for meeting with lawmakers.
We’ll share the biggest takeaways from our conversation again, because they’re absolutely worth echoing: lawmakers need to 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. You don’t need to be an expert.You just need to share your opinion on an issue. You have a voice, and they will listen. Advocacy and lobbying are at the heart of democracy. Find your representatives here! Come make your voice heard at E-Day this Tuesday, February 13, or reach out and join our lobbying efforts anytime by contacting us via the emails at the end of this article.
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 are continuing to educate 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 soon and will continue tracking its movement through the Senate and House.
What you can do: If you haven’t done so already, please reach out to your senators on the Energy, Industry, & Mining Committee and Finance Committee and ask them to support SB 532. 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
Good news! Our Community Solar Pilot Program Bill (SB 638) was introduced in the Senate this week! It’s double referenced to the Economic Development and Finance Committees. We are speaking with members of the Economic Development Committee about the pilot program and how it could benefit West Virginians by reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and lowering our electric utility costs. Read more about Community Solar here.
What you can do: Urge members of the Economic Development Committee to support SB 638 and bring community solar to West Virginia!
HB 5422 – Net Metering
Update: HB 5422 has yet to move since its introduction last week. 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.
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! You can also complete this action alert from West Virginians For Energy Freedom here.
Bills to Oppose:
SB 171 – Prohibiting county commissions from adopting authorization that exceeds state law regarding agriculture operations
SB 171 was fast-tracked through the Senate and introduced in the House on January 15 with a single reference to the House Government Organization Committee. This bill aims to restrict county commissions from adopting ordinances or regulations that exceed state laws concerning agricultural operations, which could threaten local autonomy. This bill also has environmental implications. If state laws are less stringent around the use of pesticides, for example, local communities would not be able to enforce stricter regulations to protect their public health, air quality, and water quality.
Due to effective citizen lobbying, SB 171 was taken off the agenda for further review. However, the bill returned and is on second reading in the House on Monday, February 14.
HB 5018 – Community Air Monitoring Bill
Update: HB 5018 was on its third reading in the House on Monday, February 6. While the bill unfortunately passed after some debate, we are so grateful to our allies in the House who advocated loudly and strongly for our shared concerns. We especially want to highlight Delegate Rowe and Delegate Hansen for fighting this bill and offering amendments to improve it . We appreciate your hard work, Delegates!
HB 5018 was introduced in the Senate on 2/7, with a single reference to the Senate Energy, Industry, and Mining Committee. We will continue to advocate against this bill, focusing on the message it sends and our judicial concerns.
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. Citizen air monitoring plays a crucial role in engaging citizens and supplementing data gathered by government agencies, including the EPA and the DEP. This engagement can lead to informed decision-making, advocacy for improved air quality regulations, and community-driven initiatives to reduce pollution. Read more about the bill and last week’s public hearing here.
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. During a discussion of the bill in yesterday’s House Energy & Manufacturing Committee, concerns were raised that the 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 delegates in opposition, and heads to the House Judiciary Committee. Read more about the meeting and bill here.
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.