WVRC Policy News
WV Rivers 2024 Policy News
Maria Russo, our Clean Water Campaign Coordinator.
Checking in with WV Rivers’ Clean Water Campaign Coordinator Maria Russo
Hi, everyone! Today is Tuesday, February 6th, which marks the 28th day of the 60-day legislative session. This means we’re almost halfway through the West Virginia law-making process for 2024. You might have seen our Action Alerts coming through your inbox as ways to take part in the session’s happenings.
As a heads up: We anticipate these asks will pick up over the next few weeks as our lawmakers work to get bills over the finish line.
This update serves as a check-in to let you know what is moving, what is halted, and what we are keeping a lookout out for.
For clean water and healthy communities,
HB 5018 Passes in the House of Delegates Despite Opposition From Community, Delegate Rowe Coins It the State’s “Un-Clean Air Act”
Maria Russo, our Clean Water Campaign Coordinator.
West Virginia House Bill 5018, dubbed the “Un-Clean Air Act” by Delegate Rowe, passed the House today despite hearing concerns from more than 530 community members about this bill. HB 5018 passed 76-19 with five leaders absent.
The bill has stirred significant controversy in the past weeks and raises serious concerns about the future of community air monitoring efforts throughout the Mountain State.
This bill limits the use of data collected from Purple Air Monitors and other handheld monitoring devices. For example, if you used this device to detect a leaking gas well on or near your land or suspected air pollution from a nearby facility, HB 5018 could prevent you from using that data in court.
Delegate Rowe proposed an amendment that pointed out that section (g) of HB 5018 may prove to be unconstitutional because it prohibits the use of community monitoring data in courts. Rowe’s amendment failed 15-83.
WV Climate Activist Morgan King shows Charleston resident Ken Battey a Purple Air Monitoring advice, the kind of device targeted in HB 5018. Photo courtesy of Empower WV.
At Friday’s Public Hearing, only two individuals spoke in favor of the bill, while a staggering fifteen voiced their opposition. Among them was Ryan Aronckes, who underscored the importance of ensuring that the voices of young people are heard in discussions about legislation that impacts public health and environmental well-being.
Aronckes, a junior studying at West Virginia University, stated his Friday morning started at 4:30 am so that he could make it in time to the 9:00 am hearing.
Images of advocates speaking against HB 5018 on the floor of the WV House of Delegates during the public hearing on Friday, February 2, 2024. Image Credity: WV Legislative Photography, Photos by Perry Bennett.
If you were one of those people who showed up at the Capitol on Friday morning or contacted our leaders in opposition of HB 5018 ahead of today’s vote, thank you. We appreciate your advocacy for the protection of our environment and public health.
This industry-backed bill sets a dangerous precedent in the state, and we will continue to keep you updated on how you can advocate to protect our rights and public health as HB 5018 makes its way to the State Senate.
In the meantime, take a moment to thank the 19 members of the House of Delegates who voted against HB 5018 to protect community monitoring efforts.
Bills on the Move!
There are other bills that have had at least one committee hearing:
- Senate Bill 171: This bill will prohibit county commissions from adopting laws that exceed state laws regarding agricultural operations. This bill is concerning in that it strips away local governing authority. The bill is currently stalled in the House Committee on Government Organization.
- Committee Substitute for Senate Bill 196: This bill defines matters about Rail Trails and limits use to nature-based, non-motorized recreation. The bill has passed the Senate and is referred to the House Committee on Government Organization.
- Senate Bill 426: The bill, which aims to enact the West Virginia Recreational Trails Development Act, has passed the Senate and is referred to the House Committee on Government Organization.
- House Bill 4967: This bill, which streamlines the Voluntary Remediation and Redevelopment Act (“VRRA”), provides new liability protections for persons and companies who wish to purchase and redevelop former industrial properties that are or may be contaminated by historical use. It passed the House Committee on Energy & Manufacturing and will head to House Judiciary next.
- Committee Substitute for House Bill 5045: This bill provides further assurances to the United States Environmental Protection Agency regarding the State of West Virginia’s application for primary enforcement authority over underground carbon dioxide sequestration programs in the State of West Virginia. This bill passed the House on February 5 and will head to the Senate.
- House Bill 5076: This bill aims to clarify the process of well plugging, adding new conditions for wells to NOT be promptly plugged. This bill has passed the House Committee on Energy and Mining but will have to pass through the House Judiciary before making it to the floor.
Other Bills We Are Watching
- Senate Bill 425: This bill requires the Department of Highways to assure public access to waterways in any new bridge construction or major repair. The bill is referenced to the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources.
- Senate Bill 532: (Similar to HB5414) The Orphan Oil and Gas Well Prevention Act of 2024 prevents oil and gas wells from being orphaned on surface owner’s land with no responsible driller or operator with the resources to plug the well. The Senate version of the bill has been referred to the Committee on Energy, Industry, and Mining, and we are watching the agenda to see when it will be up for discussion.
- Senate Bill 537: (Similar to HB 5173) requires having the members of the Parks and Recreation Commission elected rather than appointed in counties that have decided to have a Parks and Recreation Commission and whose population is greater than 150,000. This bill has been referred to the Senate Outdoor Recreation Committee.
- House Bill 4834: (Similar to SB 638) Establishes a community solar program for subscribers to gain credits on their utility bills. This bill has been referred to the House Committee on Energy and Manufacturing.
- House Bill 4966: This bill allows for the plugging of oil and gas wells using subsurface monuments, meaning that people would not know where underground wells have been plugged. This bill has been referred to the House Committee on Energy and Manufacturing.
- House Bill 5013: This bill amends the definition of managed timberland to include certain parcels of land that are within a subdivision as long as they are managed for timber production and harvesting. This bill has been referred to the House Committee on Energy and Manufacturing.
- House Bill 5048: This bill removes the cap on the number of gas and other types of wells for which operators are required to pay annual oversight fees. This bill has been referred to the House Committee on Energy and Manufacturing.
- House Bill 5422: This bill requires the Public Service Commission to adopt a rule mandating electric utilities to provide full retail credit to customer-generators for electricity delivered to the utility under net metering arrangement and requires the commission to consider increasing allowed kilowatt capacity for commercial customer-generators. This bill has been referred to the House Committee on Energy and Manufacturing.
Register for Tonight’s E-Day Advocacy Training!
This year, we’re hosting a free webinar series in conjunction with WVEC’s Feb. 13 Environmental Day at the WV State Capitol with our friends at West Virginia Environmental Council and West Virginia Citizen Action Group.
In these Zoom webinars, you’ll learn how the WV legislature works, how a bill is made, and some tips for talking with legislators. You can watch the recordings of our first two in the series at this link.
Want to learn more about pending bills? E-Day Advocacy: Bills and Talking Points tonight (Tuesday, February 6) from 7 pm-8 pm. This webinar will offer up-to-date information about legislation WVEC supports and provide talking points for meeting your legislator. Register here or at the button below.
Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know you’re coming to any of these events. We hope to see you there!
E-Day Advocacy Training: Bills and Talking Points
The mural we painted with Nichole Westfall at Clean Water for All is on display at the WV State Capitol now through E-Day on February 13. Stop by to share you concerns and hopes for water across the Mountain State.
3rd Annual Black Policy Day at the State Capitol
Don’t miss out: Black Policy Day is happening this week on February 7th! Members of our team will be there and we hope you can join us for this transformative event at the WV State Capitol from 8:00 am – 3:00 pm
Environmental Day at the WV Capitol with E-Council
Join WV Rivers staff and like-minded environmental advocates from around the state on February 13 for Environmental Day at the Capitol. Read about the legislative priorities and register below.
Free King Coal Screening and Discussion
Join us at the WV State Capitol on February 14 for Flood Resiliency Day, hosted by the State Office of Resiliency. This event brings communities, policymakers, and experts together to tackle flood resilience.