G.R.E.E.N.
Grass Roots Environmental Effort Newsletter

March 2000

The First Legislative Session of the Century Is Over At Last!!

It was a session of a lot of low lights and few highlights. It all began 9 weeks ago with Cecil's Fate of the State message and the cloud of racism hovering over the House of Delegates. The Session ended as it began, in chaos, as the House Leadership once again self destructed on the Higher education bill in the waning minutes. Between the awful beginning and the shameful finale a lot did and didn't happen.

Well funded special interests killed proposals to tax tobacco and gambling. Big timber preserved its ludicrous tax breaks at the expense of schools and libraries. Bond attorneys and salesmen will reap millions in commissions because the State now has the authority to borrow $4 billion to refinance old debt. Chemical companies carved out big tax breaks and everybody but us thought deregulating electricity was a great idea.

In a nut shell, rules implementing Judge Haden's Mountaintop removal decision were passed in spite of the coal lobby's attempt to create loopholes big enough to drive a drag line through. We lost and gained some on clean air and water issues and learned that proposing a tough timber regulation bill without a solid legislative education plan could backfire.

The highlights, though few, were mostly green victories. The passage of a decent Quarry bill was a good start in roping in a destructive industry. The Kanawha State Forest bill was passed and now for the first time recreation, not tree farming, is stressed in one of our State forests. The Farm Preservation Act passed and now policies aimed at preserving family farms are in place. The WVEC lobby team and all of you helped to defeat or neuter more than a dozen bad Enviro bills ranging from Industry intervention in environmental education to coal tax breaks.

In summary, the "big" victories were Judge Haden's coal rules, quarries, Kanawha State Forest, and the Farm Preservation Act. The bitter defeats were electric deregulation, managed timber tax breaks and those stupid NASCAR plates.

Thanks to the hundreds of you who gave us moral, financial, and physical support. The Green lobby continues to be the biggest bang for the buck at the Legislature!


Where Are They Now?

The lobby team has gone on to its post-session life but we thought you might be interested in knowing what life holds for its members now.

Nathan Fetty: After I get over the flu I contracted from shaking so many hands at the Capitol, I'm going to decompress from the legislature by no longer insisting that my friends and co-workers follow parliamentary procedure in day-to-day life, like asking each other to yield the floor, addressing each other as "delegate" and "senator", and banging makeshift gavels to end conversations.

Viv Stockman: I will continue my nearly fulltime work with OVEC (www.ohvec.org), focusing mostly on stopping mountaintop removal and on campaign finance reform issues. I'll work on Denise Giardina's campaign (www.deniseforgov.org), do some freelance writing and work on some spring clean-up projects for the Roane County Solid Waste Authority. If I don't soon get some seeds in the ground and my bike out on the trails, I'll go nuts (www.seevivfreak.org).

Tom Degen: I am back to volunteering on the Calhoun County Solid Waste Authority and the micro-size alternative school that our daughter Melanie attends. I am also resuming work on my part time job abstracting articles about education for Appalachian Educational Laboratory. AEL is kind enough to let me have time off to work the legislative session, for which I would like to publicly thank them. Now if I could just figure out how to get the time to catch up on house and farm work . . .

Don Garvin: I am going to look for a "real" job, have a Mountaineer Chapter Trout Unlimited National Banquet, and do some fly fishing. How much job hunting I do will depend on the weather!

Gary Z: After session, it takes me a week or two to detox from heavy caffeine addiction and pick up the pieces of a life put on hold for two months. So this week I'm staying home, taking a winter's worth of recycling to the center, planning the garden, and catching up on my four other jobs. Thanks to all of you who contacted your legislators, or came to the Capitol in support of our efforts. It made a huge difference!

Mike Withers: The regular 2000 session is history but our best lobbying is yet to be done. In my opinion, elections represent the best way to influence our political process. I plan to spend considerable time helping to elect and re-elect progressive candidates.

Rick Eades: I will be plunging into eastern WV spring water development, classroom volunteering, and promoting GIS initiatives to protect our "Blue Gold." I will continue to work with CAG, provide technical assistance to communities faced with environmental threats, and daydream about having a life.

Norm Steenstra: I'm getting back to running CAG, and listening for peepers and pursuing the new beginnings of Spring.



Baseball's Ben Berry Berry Good To Me

When I reflect back on this past session I think about baseball. My role in this past season was like an aging player that just put in a few cameo appearances and pinch-hit on occasion. I hardly worked up a sweat and just let the new guys play some ball. Most of my efforts were focused on managing the team, not playing the game. The real trick to managing is to take the resources available, match the chemistry, put together the starting lineup and once in a while offer up some "wisdom of experience."

West Virginia is the only state that I know of that takes the team approach to its green legislative efforts. To me, the legislative session requires a team approach. It is a situation that must have people working together, relying on each other's strengths and covering each other's non-strengths. Just as no individual baseball player actually wins or loses a game no one green lobbyist passes or kills a bill.

We had a great group of individuals performing this year. For me, it was a lot of fun and quite gratifying to sit back and watch them do their thing. The team functioned as a unit combining talent of expression, incredible work ethics, knowledge of the issues, experience, youthful zeal and, above all, shared values.

Don't be offended if I fail to mention someone, but these are the folks I saw in action day after day:

The "starting line up" consisted of steady, veteran, mellow green sweetheart Gary Zuckett. He was a rock of rationality to all of us. Mike Withers, also a veteran, has the silly enthusiasm of a kid one-third his age. Mike is second to none in knowing the process and accessing legislators. Working with rising superstar Rick Eades was like watching an athlete just beginning to realize his potential. I can only wonder to what level of competence he will eventually achieve. Don Garvin and Nathan Fetty were our "odd couple" this year. I named them the Bickersons. Don, bald and grouchy, had a great knowledge of water issues and a business-like approach to legislators. Nathan is in his mid 20's, articulate and more professional than you'd expect in someone twice his age. The "water boys" were great additions to our team this year.

Dave McMahon, Tom Degen and Sheila McEntee, although not officially on the E Council team, were absolutely critical to the watch-dogging of the quarry bill, the Kanawha State Forest bill, and the NASCAR fiasco.

Then there were the bench and bullpen players who don't get in the headlines but the team knows that without them there would be no headlines. Chris Hogbin's tireless efforts on the E-mail tree made a difference in every issue we worked. Linda Mallet, the Update editor and electric dereg guru, remained focused and calm in the midst of every storm we created for her. The Friday afternoon production of the Update never ran smoother. Dot Henry at the office provided a steady presence among a very chaotic environment. Denise Poole's work on the very successful fundraiser and the organizing of the E-Day! Festivities maintained our traditions and provided fiscal sustenance for our team. And let me not forget Chuck Wyrostick, Doyle Coakley, Joe Lovett, Cindy Rank, Jim Kotcon, Shirley Mullet, Vivian Stockman and Lisa Diehl who all played key roles in working individual bills.

Thanks, too, to Lynn Degen who maintains the WVEC website and posted the Update every week so those of you on-line could read it just about as soon as it was written.

Rick Eades (as compulsive as he is brilliant) listed over 125 people that added to our team, and that doesn't begin to include all of you that sent money, provided food, and emailed our beloved legislators to death. Last of all, each of us is indebted to the big donors that bankrolled much of our team: The Highlands Conservancy, Sierra Club, OVEC, Rivers Coalition, WV-CAG, Frank Young, and the Mountaineer Chapter of Trout Unlimited deserve our thanks.

I feel like Joe Torre, the manager of the World Champion NY Yankees. I didn't do much but I was lucky enough to get to see the team play every day.

Norm Steenstra


Continuing Saga of Dereg

by Gary Zuckett

Your elected representatives passed an amended HCR 27 Dereg resolution by a voice vote. When this happens (as opposed to a recorded roll call vote) the public hasn't a clue as to how its reps voted. This is a representative democracy? Dereg, by far the most critical consumer issue of the 2000 session, passed without a clue how members voted.

The lone exception was the stunning speech against the resolution by Senator Hunter (D-Monogalia). Hunter compared Dereg to past fiascoes such as the Mountaintop Mitigation Bill (which brought the courts and Feds down on the practice) and the Managed Timber Tax break (promoted as revenue neutral) which cost local county governments millions in lost tax revenue. "Dereg is this year's blunder," Hunter stated but his eloquent words fell onto closed minds.

Dereg is an excellent example of a public agency promoting the agenda of the industry it is charged to regulate. The Public Service Commission has consistently led the charge to turn the regulated monopolies which generate our power into unregulated monopolies. These new market-driven behemoths will cut rock-bottom deals with big users (such as coal, chemicals, and steel) and then squeeze small business and homeowners to make up profitability.

Environmentally, the plan stinks. It ignores the "grandfathered" generators which are, still today, belching pollution at pre-1970 Clean Air Act levels. Luckily, the EPA is going after these "dirty burners."

"Green Energy" production was also ignored in the plan. Other states placed incentives for generation with renewable sources such as wind, water, and sun. Our PSC leaves this important element to the whims of the market.

We have a year, however, to study and agitate before the plan can be implemented. An amendment requires the review of how dereg affects $270 million of state and local tax revenue. A lot can happen in a year's time. Hopefully, a new governor and new blood in the legislature (could we have an upgrade on House speaker please?) will take a hard look at the blunder of the 2000 session and follow Senator Hunter's advice and DUMP DEREG.


Timber

by Mike Withers

Managed Timberland - Legislation creating a two-tiered tax break passed both the House Judiciary and Finance committees. This proposal would have recaptured some $925,000 for local governments. The House Rules committee stopped a vote on the floor. During the session's last week, the House language was amended into another bill by the Senate Judiciary. The timber lobby managed to have the language removed in Senate Finance. Recognizing the financial hardship this program is creating for some counties, the legislature appropriated a little more than $400,000 to help defray the costs for the counties hardest hit. This is a one time deal which does not address the long term problem.

Logging and sediment control- Plans are under way for a series of stake holder meetings to address the issues. I do not expect any meetings to be scheduled until after the May Primary Election. Interested parties need to be gathering their information and strategizing. Take time to once again thank the House sponsors Mahan, Staton, Compton, Campbell and Hines. Also, thank Del. Wright who reintroduced last year's legislation.

Many thanks are due the lobby team and the dedicated volunteers who showed up at the Capitol when they were needed. I hope all readers take time to enjoy the Kanawha forest and other forest's in remainder of the year. I know I will. It is important that we all take time to enjoy life in this beautiful state.


NASCAR Plates Cross Finish Line

by Gary Zuckett

Probably the dumbest bill to pass the 2000 session is HB 4309, which establishes a NASCAR theme vanity license plate. Promoted by the WV-DMV and sponsored by the governor, it sells advertising for a private corporation (NASCAR gets a $5 kick-back per plate) on our registration plates. Wait a minute! I thought a corporation pays for its own advertising. Just goes to show that reason and logic are often obscured by the real issue at the legislature. One public official called the whole idea "election-year redneck bait." Sounds about right.

Where does the possum come in? Well, the bill expanding non-game wildlife plates to include other wildlife was amended into the NASCAR bill. This provision will allow the DMV to issue wildlife plates with deer, bear, turkey, and even possums and the sale of these plates will benefit the non-game wildlife fund.

Questions abound around the legality of funds from the DMV going to a private company. When the nongame plate was passed, it required a special constitutional amendment to allow the DMV to move money into the nongame fund. Several parties have expressed interest in having the courts rule on this issue. Contact Shelia McEntee at 744-4254 for more information.


Water Wins and Woes

by Nathan Fetty

This year's legislative session (my first) was a mixed bag of victories and losses for river and stream protection. The most difficult aspect of the session - and the hardest lesson to learn - was that bills are passed or killed not so much on the basis of sound public policy, but instead on appeasing special interests instead of addressing the public good. All too often, the powers that be give marching orders that benefit polluters, not the people. Despite these obstacles, though, we wrung some water victories out of the legislature.

One of our top "wins" was getting the Protection of Water Act introduced in both Senate and House. We were happy that the bill simply saw the light of day, and we are gearing up for next year when we'll be poised to push for its passage. The bill lays out how streamwork is to be properly done, providing maximum protection for natural resources and property.

Also, a slew of horrific amendments to drinking water regulations were defeated, for now. The changes offered by the WV. Manufacturers Association would have weakened pollution standards for drinking water supplies that come from surface waters, but fortunately, those changes are on hold until the state Bureau of Public Health completes a statewide inventory of drinking water sources. This is definitely an issue to watch during interims!

A regulatory change was made that gives preference to West Virginia-produced poultry litter in state projects. The bill spearheaded by Del. Harold Michael, HB 4380, also gives tax breaks to farmers to purchase environmentally sound equipment. This is a positive step toward dealing with the Eastern Panhandle's highly concentrated poultry litter that is washed into the Potomac Headwaters.

We fought for and won a tighter variance to groundwater protections that was given to several power plants around the state. The variance allows an excess of certain metals to leach into groundwater supplies, and the changes to the variance make it as difficult to get back in compliance as it does to get out of compliance (where before it was tilted toward the polluter). Although we've contended that granting such a variance is terrible policy, it is allowed for in West Virginia's groundwater regulations.

A renewal of DEP's Stream Partners Program passed as well. This program is invaluable in that it lends financial and technical support to the formation and work of local watershed groups. It's great that citizens have such a resource, and in upcoming legislative sessions we'd like to lobby for more funding for Stream Partners.

Finally, in this ball game, we have to count as victories good regulations that come through the session unscathed. We were anticipating (but saw no) changes to the state's anti-degradation policy, which is the portion of the Clean Water Act that keeps clean rivers and streams as they are: clean. Nor did we see changes to water regs that would weaken protections for Upper Blackwater River. To appease developers, Sen. Sarah Minear had tried to change that river's current designation as a trout stream, but was roundly defeated in the final legislative interim meeting. We hope to keep this designation in place.

We did suffer a couple of disappointing defeats. Legislators were good to their friends in the coal industry when they approved an exemption for manganese in the drinking water code. This exemption allows the coal industry to pass the buck (in this case, treatment costs) to the public, and ignores the health concerns of having manganese in drinking water. We're hopeful that this change won't stand up to EPA scrutiny.

Also, a DEP proposal to increase fines for Clean Water Act violations died in both houses. Early on, the House tabled the bill, which would have raised the fine from $10,000 to $25,000, making West Virginia consistent with surrounding states and keeping it from looking attractive to polluters. Maybe next year?

Many thanks to all of the folks who responded to our calls to action during the last couple of months! When legislators hear from an array of citizens on these critical issues, it has a tremendous impact. Like it or not, citizens are out-gunned at the Capitol because we are often left out of the process. Thanks for your interest and response. Because many of you took action, we made ourselves heard.


Party Tradition Continues

by Conni McMorris

There are now new memories to add to your post-legislature party collection. We continued the party until 4 AM tradition. Super Lobbyist Rick Eades packed plates of food for folks to take back home to loved ones who stayed behind. The food Paul Perfater fed us was terrific and the donated beer imported. .50 Caliber rocked the house with vintage Doors plus they played some very fast ryths perfect for twisting and spinning. Personally, I wouldn't have missed doing the Tango with John Johnson.

The lobby team turned out and folks from probably fifteen counties came in. Everywhere I went I heard talk of rivers, spring water, trees, air quality, groundwater, alternative fuels, habitat health, wealth development from sources other than coal, limited quarry boundaries and tire and flyash disposal methods.

We were happy to carry on the noble tradition of stumbling away from the halls of legislative law to gather one final time and regroup for the next onslaught against the mighty opponents to our environment.


Green versus Green

by Vivian Stockman

Us: Our green is many shades, like the forested mountains in spring. Them: Their green is the color of money, because it is money.

Us: Every member of civil society who believes so many things (you know, the future of life on Earth) are more important than money. Them: Special interest lobbyists and the politicians beholden to their campaign contributions.

In West Virginia, "us" is almost everyone who reads this newsletter; "them" is nearly everyone who isn't us, who was slithering around the statehouse during the dearly departed legislative session. You could easily recognize us and them. They were the ones with expensive suits and smug smirks (comes from being used to getting what you want), powered by the love of money. We were the ones with everyday clothes or hand-me-down-suits and broad grins (comes from either being pummeled silly or being so glad to see another good, green friend under the golden dome), powered by the love of West Virginia.

It's no surprise that the power of money showed itself again during this latest session.

Recent data from the People's Election Reform Coalition pinpoints ever-increasing campaign contributions to state politicians from coal, gambling, tobacco and other special interests. King Coal and power companies got the consumer-bashing electricity deregulation resolution passed; gambling interests hit the jackpot on gray machines; tobacco interests got a tax on smokeless tobacco snuffed out and the brazen bond boys may bog us all down with billions in debt.

It should not be surprising, however, that the power of the people showed itself again during this session. That we got ANY citizen and environmental protections with the quarry bill is thanks to the incredible efforts of Rick Eades and Tom Degen, backed by the incredible efforts of all of you. Legislators were getting so many calls on this that they had to note our concerns, despite all the special interest green in their campaign chests. Your communications really made a difference. Whenever thinking legislators saw our team roving the halls, they had to realize the vast network of support behind these lobbyists. Unthinking legislators must at least have been befuddled as to why our team works so hard for practically free (hint: send more green to start building funds for our next year's green team).

It would be spin-doctoring to say we came out of the session hugely successful, legislation-wise. Still, many bad bills were killed. Perhaps our legislators only listened to us because this is an election year. We'll see next year. By then, our ever-increasing network of people who hold life-affirming values above the "bottom line" will be ready to rally for democracy again.


SB 427: The Tire Bill

by Tom Degen

This bill authorizes the Division of Highways (DOH) to clean up tire piles, funded by a five dollar fee on vehicle titles. The state has given itself broad powers to go after people with tire piles on their property, including putting a lien on the property and selling it to satisfy the lien. The ban on landfill disposal of tires is relaxed in the case of tires from DOH cleanups. Tire retailers must accept one waste tire for each new tire sold, and may charge a fee to cover the costs of disposal. Customers must provide a waste tire for each tire bought. No system for tracking waste tires was implemented.

The bill was amended so that waste tires that were disposed of in landfills would be subject to the tonnage caps and the assessment fees. That safeguard make me feel better about the bill.

Late Saturday night, the Senate amended the bill on the floor. I have not seen the amendment, but apparently it gives DOH the authority to establish waste tire collection centers at county DOH sheds and pay a "bounty" for waste tires. The bounty money is not to come from the five dollars per title fee that funds waste tire pile cleanups. The DOH has to come up with a separate funding source.

Various agencies are to propose rules to implement their respective roles in this bill. Because of vague wording and conflicting provisions in the bill, how the bill is interpreted by these agencies in rule-making will have a great impact on the implementation of the law.



First Thing You Know, Ol' Jed's a Millionaire

by Rick Eades

The Charleston Gazette usually excels on environmental stories. In its wrap up of the Legislative session, it characterized the newly passed quarry law as doing very little. On the surface, a few points support that thinking. Quarrying won't be featured on "60 Minutes" anytime soon. Some provisions of the new law even favor the industry (see Tom Degen's story). But, pardon me if I find the Gazette's interpretation as shortsighted.

Beneath the veneer of regulating the quarry industry, a big story emerged that the Gazette simply missed - spring water protection. Fast approaching storms must have clouded their radar screen. It's easy to see why a focus on intergenerational theft stole the show. After all, our legislature just:

* borrowed $4 billion to invest near the end of a 20-year bull market,

* buried their heads in the sand and allowed huge PEIA liability to snowball,

* catered to rednecks in the Senate's failure to pass the smokeless tobacco tax,

* supported electric rate reforms to likely end WV's only positive top-ten ranking in the country, and

* set up many of our 4-year colleges for failure.

How could the quarry law compete with that Murderer's Row, which effectively undermines our future?

Fortunately papers in Beckley, Moorefield, and Elkins saw and published something that the Gazette did not. It wasn't the quarry law per se that grabbed headlines. It was the awakening to an alternative economic opportunity that 7 generations from now could dwarf what coal has meant to West Virginia. It's hard to think that far ahead, so the Gazette is forgiven. While many focused on the giving away of our state's future, others saw a way to redefine and protect it, specifically by elevating the spring water economic potential.

In years to come, the quarry law may be looked on as THE wake-up call to spring water protection and economic diversification in West Virginia. Public radio and television, the print media, DEP regulatory staff, and hundreds of citizens woke up as quarry discussions cast light on the future opportunities for spring water development. The quarry industry had zero requirements for monitoring or protecting groundwater prior to HB 4055's passage. Regulating the industry that literally targets for removal the host rock for $250 billion of water per year is non-trivial.

In addition, Pocahontas County folks can rest easier knowing that provisions for permit denials have been retained. Hardy Countians can hope that DEP will use new powers to measure the groundwater that supplies 44 households. If DEP needs a poster child to use groundwater monitoring and protection provisions, the Hardy County situation is a perfect litmus test. Permitting a quarry there is pure insanity.

In Pendleton County, Greer Limestone will have to comply with the new law, as their shameless attempt to gain a blanket exemption during the last week of the legislature was soundly thwarted (and Gov. Underwood shouldn't veto the bill unless he needs another nail in his re-election coffin). Though some folks in the eastern panhandle may feel buffer zone and zoning issues were not adequately addressed, they would have had to be present to see the pressure brought to bear by Del. Manuel, and later by Del. Doyle and Senators Unger and Snyder.

So, the quarry law didn't register with the Gazette as "doing much." Nobody's perfect. Just ask the folks in Syracuse faced with lead poisoning of their drinking water, or Norfolk citizens fighting with NC for adequate supplies, or the Research Triangle Park where forced water conservation last year pained uppity-yuppies, or Charlotte where suspicions of arsenic in public supplies are emerging, or ....wait another 20 years and see how perfect the water supply systems are in Baltimore, Washington, and Richmond. Then West Virginia's water will be a story, if it's protected as the new quarry law allows.


April 16: Be There or Be Square!

by Mary Wildfire

What happened in Seattle between November 27th and December 3rd could be described as a clash between the forces of globalization-from-above and globalization-from-below. On the one side is a New World Order ruled by multinational corporations, in which the only imperative is increasing profits and all else is sacrificed to this goal. On the other is a world run by humans, in which making money is only one goal and not the most important, in which resources are channeled away from militarization and the private accumulation of great wealth for a few, toward the eradication of poverty and AIDS, the creation of a sustainable economy, the establishment of justice and the preservation of both biological and cultural diversity.

Seattle was Round One. Round Two will be in Washington D.C. between April 8th and 17th, when the head of the IMF (International Monetary Fund), the World Bank and the WTO meet along with about 25 finance ministers. They do this twice a year, but this time there will be many thousand uninvited guests, as the people of the world demand a voice in the institutions that make the real rules.

Many of the groups that made Seattle such a peoples' victory are hard at work organizing similar events for "a16" as they call it, because April 16th will be the most important day. The International Forum on Globalization is sponsoring another Teach-In on the 14th; the one in Seattle was excellent, so get your ticket now (www.ifg.org). There will be marches with colorful big puppets and music, rallies and skits, and conferences. The Direct Action Network plans to try to shut down the IMF as they shut down WTO. Activists from all over the world will be there.

For background information, check out www.50years.org. For info on what's happening when, housing, etc., check out www.a16.org. You don't necessarily have to be there the whole week. A group is organizing in Morgantown to tie in with these events; contact Erin Condo at econdo@wvu.edu, or me at mwildfire@hotmail.com or 655-7486.

Do you have something more important to do in the middle of April than helping to turn your home planet from the path of coal smoke and nukes toward the sun, from weapons in space toward healthy children, from corporate rule to democracy?


Voluntary Farmland Protection Act Awaits Governor's Signature

by Clint Hogbin, Chair, EPPEC

After 11 months of repeated meetings, phone calls, trips to Charleston and just plain ole hustle, the members of the Eastern Panhandle People's Empowerment Coalition (EPPEC) and our farm community allies are just one step away from the initiation of a farmland preservation program throughout the state.

Senate Bill 209 was developed and written by this odd alliance of open space advocates and farmers around the state. Amazingly, it passed two interim committees, one subcommittee, four committees, and both the House and the Senate without one single vote of opposition. But, it didn't get there without a battle. Last minute unexpected amendments by the oil/gas lobby and efforts by the WV-DOH (pronounced duuuuhhh) sent the legislation into a tail spin by some unfair one-sided weakening of the existing condemnation and utility easement language. Fortunately, Senator John Unger, Delegate Dale Manuel and the EPPEC members were not to be counted out without a fight.

Last minute corrections were arranged and amended into the bill as it left the last committee.

If signed into law by the Governor, Senate Bill 209 will mandate the creation of a WV Agriculture Protection Authority and allow county commissions to create their own Farmland Protection Board to address the loss of farm land by allowing farm owners to voluntarily donate or to be compensated for the placement of a perpetual protective easement of all or any part of the farm.

Research indicates the state "Authority" or the county "Board" has no less than 10 Federal grant programs to obtain funding to purchase the protective easements. The most notable of these is the USDA- Farmland Protection Program, which has already documented that the bill qualifies WV to apply for federal grant money.

EPPEC members would like to thank the WVEC for allowing us the use of this newsletter and Web page for weekly updates to citizens across the state.

As well, we would like to thank Dave Hammer of Hammer, Ferretti and Schiavoni for practically giving us the use of his law firm.

Just one final request. Please call the Governor and ask him to sign SB 209 into law. The Governor can be contacted by email at governor@governor.state.wv.us or by phone at 1-304-558-2000.


All Over But the Shouting

by Don Garvin, WVEC President

I have a few thoughts to share with you now that the Y2K session of the WV legislature is over.

First of all, let me say to the lobby team how much I enjoyed serving with such a distinguished bunch of folks. Though the results may not seem dramatic, I think this was one of our best efforts ever, largely because of the quality of the individual team members.

And, I couldn't have survived the session without the joyful presence of Nathan Fetty who was "on loan" from the Rivers Coalition and was a rookie like me. You "done good," Boy Wonder!

As for our successes, the Kanawha State Forest bill, the quarry bill, and retaining the current definition for Class A public drinking waters rank at the top. My biggest disappointment was my inability to stop the groundwater quality variance for coal burning power plants.

Before the session I promised myself that the lobby team would try to stay in closer contact with WVEC groups and members. On one level, I believe we have accomplished that, through our email network and the loyal and dedicated work of Chris Hogbin, and through the GREEN Legislative Updates that Linda Mallet has done such a terrific job of editing.

However, it has been more of a one-way communication than I had envisioned. I had originally hoped that the lobby team would be able to speak personally with board members and others at least once a week, to hear what concerns with how the session was unfolding.

What I have discovered, after being on the lobby team for the first time, is that the session doesn't exactly unfold - it explodes, and team members are busy to the max, rushing to lobby our agenda or to react to put out wild fires that we have no control over. And even though some have told me that the lobby team was much more prepared and organized than in previous years, it still seemed at times like an old Keystone Cops movie - organized mayhem!

At any rate, I think that more two-way communication is something to shoot for in the future. I apologize if we didn't reach the goal of keeping you more involved. We can only keep working toward that end.


HB 4055: The Quarry Bill

by Tom Degen

This bill is a positive step forward, and it took a lot of work from a lot of people to get this major piece of environmental legislation, especially considering the current political climate concerning the environment.

The bill's positive aspects are: blasting; pre-blast surveys; DEP's authority to deny permits; public participation; the ability for citizen suits; groundwater monitoring; treble damages; water replacement; grandfathering of disturbed areas only; and although it is less than we wanted, a 25-foot buffer for existing quarries.

The bill's downside is that fees are not enough to fund the program; proposed bonding requirements were weakened; underground quarries that disturb less than five acres are exempt; the provision that new quarries comply with zoning ordinances was lost and noise reduction is not addressed.

Provisions in the bill also give the DEP discretionary powers, such as deleting areas any operation, requiring permit modifications, and requiring site specific blasting plans. Citizen groups fighting new applications, modifications, nuisances, or water supply problems should get a copy of the bill and go over it carefully. Citizen activism, exercised early, can set important precedents on how far the director's discretionary powers can be used. Think of this bill as a new car that we should take for spin and see what it'll do.


Coal Collectibles

by Rick Eades

Overall, coal interests did not dominate legislation as in years past. Several coal bills were killed outright including the stinking high sulfur coal tax break, the co-tenant bill, coal bonding, and their efforts to stifle DEP in proposing rules based on the MTR EIS (SB 595). The Haden amendments were included in new law (SB 614), and in new surface mining rules (HB 4223). So, we should never again see useless grasslands as post-mining land use.

Near the end of the session, K.O. Damron provoked me in the Senate Gallery. Seated with Dick Weybright (timber lobbyist) and several others of that ilk, K.O. bellowed that "enviro is a dirty word...enviro is a four-letter word...(etc.)." I was too burnt to respond appropriately with a combined math and civics lesson. For K.O. we offer a real four-letter word that coincidentally includes his name, O-I-N-K.

Unfortunately, coal did pay their lobbyists' bills with a reduction in severance tax for thin seam coal. We couldn't kill this bill, which only applies to deep mines in coal of 45 inches or less. Mark Muchow of the tax department says the tax break will only result in a $1.5 million dollar loss to the state. My guess is we will be back next year trying to correct a loss of revenue far greater than estimated. And while we derailed many initiatives and protected the Haden ruling, coal still stepped up to the trough and expected more corporate welfare. Not surprisingly, they got it. Makes you think of a certain four-letter word, doesn't it?


The "Chuck Ellison" Bill

by Norm Steenstra

The legislature passed the Kanawha State Forest Bill and Governor Underwood signed it into law on Tuesday. Timbering in the Kanawha State Forest (KSF) has been prohibited by code for more than 20 years. It is the only such prohibition of the nine State forests. Last year the legislature made noises about lifting the ban on timbering in the Forest.

For both Forest users and the Division of Forestry, the KSF's unique status was a major issue. Most Green people would like to see timbering prohibited on all State Forests. The timber industry and its friends at the Division of Forestry hated the KSF exemption and saw it as the beginning of a green plot to take over State Forest management.

I first met the KSF activists when they rallied with us to save the 34 Capitol trees last fall. We talked about and then formed the KSF Coalition, a group of hikers, bikers, green people and other interested folks. We met often and crafted a bill that would remove the Division of Forestry; from "managing" the Forest and instead turn it over to the DNR's Parks and Recreation section. A deal was made with the governor that if he supported the bill we would not publicly expose the sins of the Division of Forestry's management. Needless to say, working closely with the Underwood Administration left both sides a bit uneasy.

Chuck Ellison, president of the Kanawha State Forest Foundation, was relentless in organizing and lobbying the bill. Chuck devoted more than 20 years of volunteer service at the Forest. He disliked how Forestry treated his special place. His dream was to see KSF managed only for recreation. The bill officially accomplished that goal.

Sadly, after a short illness, Chuck died two days before the bill passed. To those of us who knew how ill Chuck was, the KSF bill went far beyond establishing good public policy. It was "Chuck's bill." He tirelessly worked his dream but never got to see it come true. The Forest and all lovers of things green and natural will miss Chuck.

P.S. There were literally scores of people that worked on the KSF bill but special thanks are due public interest lobbyist and lawyer Dave McMahon for his quiet dedication in shepherding the bill through the legislative minefield. Thanks, Dave! And congratulations to Bob Marshall and his Kanawha State Forest Coalition!