What’s BUGGING us?

What’s BUGGING us?

Thank you to everyone who turned out to speak at the Public Hearing on SB 687 early on Monday morning. Advocates for clean water outnumbered industry officials 26:3 in speaking out on SB 687! Help us keep the momentum going.

With only days left, we continue to fight hard to change the language of SB 687, a bill that would abandon the assessment of benthic macroinvertebrates (aka “bugs”) as the most scientifically sound way to measure a stream’s biological health from WV’s narrative water quality standards.

Send a letter to your delegates, and ask them to respect science and protect stream health by rejecting changes to water quality standards in SB 687! The bill will be on 2nd reading tomorrow in the House of Delegates. This will be our last opportunity to amend the bill. Please, take a moment and send a letterand make a phone call to your delegates, and ask them to change the language of the bill so that we can ensure that WV will continue to use sound science to protect our water from industrial pollution!

For more in-depth coverage of SB 687, see below.

Join us for a Press Conference tomorrow:

***Media Advisory***
Press Conference on the West Virginia Legislature’s War on Water


Gary Zuckett, West Virginia Citizen Action Group, 304.437.3701, garyz@wvcag.org

Charleston, WV – The West Virginia Legislature has declared an all-out war on water. Lawmakers have already passed both HB 2506 and HB 2811, bills that weaken protections on streams and rivers which are sources for much of our drinking water. SB 687 is now poised to pass in the House of Delegates.

HB 2506 will allow more cancer-causing toxins to be dumped into our water supply, and has been presented to the Governor for his signature. The West Virginia Environmental Council delivered a petition signed by concerned citizens from across the state asking the Governor to veto this dangerous piece of legislation.

HB 2811 further weakens the protections of the Aboveground Storage Tank Act (ASTA) by exempting tanks holding fluids produced by the fossil fuel industry. Although we were able to retain the registry aspect for these tanks, HB 2811 still exempts nearly 2,300 oil and gas tanks from regulation under the ASTA.

SB 687 would make our water quality standards among the weakest in the nation in protecting stream life.  The bill changes the state’s narrative water quality standards, abandoning a scientifically backed method for detecting harm to a stream’s biological health.

We need to stand strong in our opposition to this misguided idea that a thriving energy industry in West Virginia necessitates environmental destruction. We must find common ground that does not endanger the public’s health and irrevocably damage our state’s greatest natural resource, its abundant water supply.

Representatives of several member organizations will be on hand to make statements.

Press Conference:
West Virginia Legislature’s War on Water
West Virginia State Capitol
McManus Room, 252M
Thursday, April 6, 2017


Petition to Governor Justice to veto HB 2506 delivered!

Because of your support, we delivered a petition signed by concerned citizens from across the state asking the Governor to veto HB 2506, a bill that will allow more cancer-causing toxins to be dumped into our water. It is our hope that the Governor will listen to common sense, and follow the will of the people and veto this dangerous piece of legislation.

Update on SB 687
by Kate Leary

On Tuesday, the House Energy Committee passed SB 687 without any substantial improvements. As written, this bill would remove a key criterion from the state’s water quality monitoring program, hampering our ability to detect pollution and putting West Virginia out of line with the vast majority of other states. The small creatures that make up the base of the food chain would no longer be considered as an indicator for stream health, an approach that goes against both long-standing scientific consensus and plain common sense.

However, you wouldn’t have known any of those things from Tuesday’s meeting. That’s because the only witness called upon to speak before the committee was a coal industry representative. There were scientists, government officials, and environmental advocates in the room who could have offered a broader range of perspectives and technical expertise to the conversation. None got the chance to speak.

If anyone in the room remembered the many passionate and eloquent speakers at the public hearing the day before, they did not feel the need to repeat any of those sentiments in the meeting. The public were not treated as stakeholders in the House Energy Committee, just as they were not treated as stakeholders when this bill was drafted in the Senate Energy Industry and Mining Committee. Fly fishers, watershed groups, science educators and many ordinary citizens all grasp the importance of water quality monitoring and the benthic macroinvertebrates that form the base of the aquatic ecosystem. None were offered the chance to speak.

The fight over water quality monitoring hinges on just a few words out of a 66 page law- “a balanced aquatic community that is diverse in species composition”. The fact that diversity and balance are crucial to a natural ecosystem is well-established in the scientific literature, but perhaps not as recognized in the political ecosystem. If we take diversity and balance out of the equation for ecology, then we end up treating a stream as healthy so long as a few fish can swim in it. Without diversity and balance in a political ecosystem we get closed-door meetings and limited testimony, treating a process as healthy so long as a few stakeholders can speak.

SB 687 will now head to the House floor, where we will have one last chance to amend the bill and protect our water quality monitoring. Contact your legislators and ask them to make the simple change needed to support sound science and keep West Virginia in line with surrounding states.

by David Manthos

Sadly, the Local Energy Efficiency Partnership (LEEP Act) was voted down in the House Government Organization Committee. The LEEP Act would facilitate private investment facilitated through a special tax assessment handled by local governments such as towns and counties, but committee staff and Delegates appeared to interpret the bill as a government loan and rejected it on a voice vote. But while SB 480 will not pass this session, the LEEP Act concept passed the Senate unanimously and the House version (HB 2744) was sponsored by the vice-chairman of Judiciary and passed the House Political Organizations Committee.

After session ends, please refresh yourself on how LEEP works and work on your Senators and Delegate(s) over the coming year so they fully understand the concept and we can get LEEP passed next year.

Forced Pooling
by David Manthos

We are sad when a good bill dies, but we can take heart in the fact that the committee process kills bad bills too. As of Tuesday night, Senate Bill 576 is almost certainly dead, according Chairman Bill Anderson (R-Wood) and veteran reporter Ken Ward Jr. Despite innocent-sounding terms like “co-tenancy” and “joint development,” SB 576 is a forced pooling bill sought by the oil and gas industry. While less comprehensive than previous attempts, landowners with severed mineral rights or old conventional oil and gas leases could have massive fracking operations forced onto their property by industry. Thanks to progressive Democrats and conservative Republicans concerned with personal property rights, this bill has little if any path forward.

But let’s keep the pressure on. Please call Chairman Anderson, Majority Leader Cowles, and Speaker Armstead and kindly thank them for respecting private property rights by not running SB 576.

Chairman Bill Anderson: (304) 340-3168
Majority Leader Daryl Cowles: (304) 340-3220
Speaker Tim Armstead: (304) 340-3210

Clean Elections?
by John Street

HB 2319, which would require disclosures of campaign contributions during the legislative session, passed the Senate today on a 19-15 vote. While the bill might appear to bolster state law regarding campaign financing, it’s more window dressing than anything. The bill requires contributions to legislative incumbents be disclosed within five business days of receipt of the contribution during a legislative session, but that money has to be disclosed anyway. Proponents of the bill argue it would spotlight real or perceived influence that any contribution during the legislative cycle might have on a legislator’s vote on a particular bill. However bad the timing of such a contribution might look, the bill’s purpose is a solution in search of a real problem. The Legislature’s time and effort would be better spent shining a light on dark money, which has grown like black mold since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United case.
SB 539, which appears to have died in the House Judiciary committee, would have done little to shine light on the vast sums of money political action committees have at their disposal, while putting donations from individuals under a magnifying glass, starting at the first dollar. Among other things, the bill would have made a criminal of both the donor and the recipient if even a single dollar bill was dropped into a basket as a campaign donation at a campaign fundraiser, and would have given a prosecutor five years to bring a charge for such a crime. It deserves its fate.

Legislative Champions:

WVEC would like to thank Del. Bill Hamilton for offering to amend SB 687 by restoring the language about balanced aquatic communities as a critical component of West Virginia’s narrative water quality standard. We also thank our champions of clean water in the WV Senate, especially Senators Miller, Romano, and Beach who fought to clarify the impact of these changes before it passed out of the Senate. However, the bill was fast-tracked from the Senate Energy, Industry, and Mining Committee and so heavily-laden laden with complex mine safety issues that the water quality aspects of the bill were not widely understood when it came to a vote in the Senate. We hope that the Delegates will have the chance to make a more informed decision.

The State of Appalachia Conference
by Paul Dalzell

Over 50 years ago, the Commission on Religion in Appalachia (CORA) formed as a voice for justice in the mountains. Unfortunately it dissolved ten years ago. Many faith leaders throughout the Appalachian region who continue to echo its message feel that NOW is an especially meaningful and critically important time to come together once again to examine the economic, environmental and spiritual conditions of our region, to problem solve, and to organize.

This past weekend Bill Price of the Sierra Club, Allen Johnson of Christians for the Mountains, Jeff Allen of the WV Council of Churches, and Paul Dalzell, Outreach Coordinator of WVEC participated in the “THE STATE OF APPALACHIA” conference in Pipestem State Park. The conference was co-sponsored by the West Virginia Council of Churches, Christian Appalachian Ministries, Catholic Committee of Appalachia, and the Creation Justice Ministries. It was a fruitful and educational experience, full of outreach, connections, and enlightenment into the views of the more mainstream Christian religions in Appalachia. Not surprisingly, many were concerned about the same things we are here: clean water, mountaintop removal, pipelines, and fracking in our region. Bill and Karan Ireland of Advocates for a Safe Water System were on a panel speaking about water issues throughout the region, and were very well received.
Many in the room were not aware that West Virginia is the birthplace of six rivers including; the Cranberry, Williams, Cherry, Greenbrier, Gauley and Elk rivers. Also many of the faith groups represented pledged to support clean water efforts and promised to share legislative updates with their members and make calls. I was encouraged by the fellowship and support throughout the conference and look forward to working with these groups in the future.

On behalf of West Virginia Rivers Coalition:

Bring your family to the Best of Birthplace of Rivers Weekend, May 20-21, 2017 in Slatyfork, WV!

Join West Virginia Rivers to explore some of the best West Virginia’s public lands have to offer during our Best of Birthplace of Rivers Weekend in the Monongahela National Forest! This weekend is designed to get families outside enjoying and learning about public lands!

Space is limited, so make sure you register for the Best of Birthplace of Rivers Weekend soon!

Adult registration is $20/adult and youth registration is $5/child under 15 years old. Registration includes Saturday dinner, Sunday lunch, and all programming. Saturday lodging and Sunday breakfast are not provided.

Register for the Best of Birthplace of Rivers Weekend here.

We’ll follow-up after you register with more information.

With the end of session only a few days away, we stay committed to fighting hard for your priorities. We are on your side, but we need your help to win! Please, consider making a donation as we continue advocating for the environment.

Together, can succeed!

Updated: April 5, 2017 — 8:45 pm

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