By Isabel Stellato and Lucia Valentine, WVEC Lobbyists
We’ve had a productive third week as things have started to pick up at the legislature. In addition to daily bill tracking, we’ve focused on meeting with senators to discuss the Orphaned Well Prevention Act, working with folks from WV Clean and Beautiful to defeat SB 171, and gathering voices to testify against HB 5018 in today’s public hearing. We’re always excited to meet and work with community members — come lobby with us sometime! Reach out to discuss upcoming opportunities, and keep reading to learn more about what we’re working on. You can email us at the addresses at the end of this article.
SB 532 – The Orphaned Well Prevention Act
The Orphaned Well Prevention Act (OWPA) has been introduced in both the Senate and House: SB 532 and HB 5414. 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 about the bill and why West Virginia needs it.
We are expecting this bill to run in the Senate Energy, Industry, & Mining Committee sometime next week and will continue tracking its movement through the Senate and House.
What you can do: Tell your senators on the Energy, Industry, & Mining Committee and Finance Committee to support SB 532. On the House side, tell your delegates in the Energy & Manufacturing Committee and Finance Committee to support HB 5414.
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 pose several threats to 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.
Good news! Thanks to WV Clean and Beautiful, who came to Charleston to meet with House Government Organization Chairman Chris Phillips this week, SB 171 was taken off the agenda for further review.
What you can do: Click here to send an email to urge House Government Organization members to REJECT SB 171.
HB 5018 – To provide for the Department of Environmental Protection oversight and authority governing community air monitoring programs.
HB 5018 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.
Update: After a public hearing this morning, during which 16 people testified against HB 5018, and only two voiced support for the bill (both industry lobbyists), the bill was debated on second reading in the House. Delegate Rowe proposed an amendment to ensure that courts would be able to consider community monitoring data as evidence, but the amendment was tabled. The bill will be on third reading in the House on Monday, February 6.
What you can do: Complete this action alert to encourage your lawmakers to REJECT HB 5018.
We’re still waiting for the introduction of our Community Solar bill, and we’re hoping to see it soon. In the meantime, we’ve provided links to some fantastic resources for learning about community solar programs and how they could benefit West Virginians:
What you can do: By participating in community solar, you can both reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and lower your monthly electric bill, even if you cannot install solar panels on your own home. Urge legislators to bring community solar to West Virginia. Email your senators to urge them to support community solar using this form from SUN.
HB 5422 – Net Metering
HB 5422, which would require the Public Service Commission (PSC) to uphold the full retail credit for net metering in West Virginia, was introduced this morning, Feb. 2. This bill would encourage the use of net metering across the state and positively impact community solar programs in the future. It has been double referred to the House Energy and Judiciary Committees.
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!
HB 5076 – Loosening Well-Plugging Regulations
This bill aims to 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 will head to the House Judiciary Committee next. 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.