By Maria Russo
This week marked the first full week of the legislative session, and the WVEC Lobby Team has been off to quite a busy start tracking bill progress, attending committee meetings, and watching floor sessions for both the House of Delegates and the Senate.
Here are a few items we followed this week:
Senate Bills 161 and 162
Senate Bill 161, which authorizes the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) “to manage and dispose of property,” and Senate Bill 162, which allows the “Director of DNR to lease state-owned pore spaces in certain areas for carbon sequestration,” passed rather quickly from the Senate last week, were referred to the House Judiciary Committee on Monday and passed the House on Thursday.
While these bills initially were causes for concern, Chairman Moore Capito offered an amendment during the House Judiciary Committee on Monday that would “prohibit the sale, lease or disposal of property in state parks or forests without legislative approval.” These bills are clearly making way for large projects across the state, including a future hydrogen hub.
You can read more about these bills here.
WVEC will continue to track these bills and bills like them.
Department of Environmental Protection Budget Hearings
This week, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) had its budget hearings in the Senate Committee on Finance (Tuesday, January 17) and the House Committee on Finance (Friday, January 20).
During these presentations, the DEP informed legislators on how they allocated funds over the last year to make progress on numerous projects. Some items of importance included the Mining Mutual Insurance Company Fund, the Reclamation of Abandoned and Dilapidated Properties Program, and the Oil and Gas Abandoned Well Plugging Fund.
Our team will continue to track Senate Bill 109, “Orphan Oil and Gas Well Prevention Act,” and House Bill 2852, “Create the Orphan Well Prevention Act of 2023,” along with other bills that may come up regarding oil & natural gas and other functions of the DEP.
PFAS Protection Act
We have made significant progress in continuing to inform our legislators about dangerous PFAS chemicals in our water supply across West Virginia. As quoted by one of our member groups, 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!
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.