WVEC Legislative Update

March 16, 2001

 

E-Day! March 21st

Please plan on attending the WVEC's annual E-Day! Festivities, Wednesday, March 21, at the state Capitol. The fun starts at 10 AM in the lower Rotunda and 2nd floor Senate side Hall and goes until 4PM.

Come see displays featuring organizations from around the state including the West Virginia Environmental Council, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition (OVEC), Tyler Mountain Community Association, WV Native American Council, Coal River Mountain Watch, WV Eco-Tourism Coalition, Mountaineer Chapter Trout Unlimited, WV Citizen Action Group (CAG), WV Sierra Club, WV Organizing Project, Coalition For Responsible Logging, WV Highlands Conservancy, Friends of Coonskin, WV Environmental Advocates Office /DEP, Stewards of the Potomac Highlands, the North American Coalition on Religion & Ecology, Citizens Coal Council and Sustainable Fair 2001.

Award presentations are at 11:00 AM (for more on awardees, please see page 5.

Plan to stick around after E-Day to lobby your legislators and then attend the evening's fundraisers.

Taylor Books E-Day! Wine & Cheese Reception/Fundraiser ~ 5 till 7 p.m. Listen to the sounds of Steve Himes and view "Sunrise Broaching" the Sculpture donated to WVEC by Mark Blumenstein. Refreshments, raffle tickets for Blumenstein Sculpture available.

Annual E-Day! Fundraiser at the Empty Glass ~ 7:30 till 1:00 AM, 410 Elizabeth Street, Charleston. Entertainment featuring Rick Rivard, Maggie & Basil Crawford Native American music; Rolling Blackouts fun band from Huntington; Ed "Uncle Eddie" Mahonen, from Wheeling - on banjo & guitar; and The Voodoo Katz.

See You There!!

 

Session Half-Time Report

by Norm Steenstra, WV-CAG Executive Director

The Wise Administration's first legislative session is half over and there's little to write home about. The political jockeying between the governor and the legislative leadership continues with each side reminding the other that it is the one in control. Perhaps this year's biggest unreported story is that special interest lobbyists are really the ones who seem to be in control of the issues.

Call it the "honeymoon" or "mansion magic" or just the potential power of the governor. It is taking nearly all of Bob Wise's assets to keep his legislative agenda alive. The tobacco lobbyists and their allies like Go-Mart, Rite-Aid and the Retailers' Association are giving Wise fits on the smokeless tobacco tax. The huge gambling lobby is doing just what we predicted by speaking out of both sides of its mouth. Its lobbyists claim that they want to be taxed and regulated and but are, at the same time, trying to minimize the regulation and the tax. The beat goes on.

The "Dirty Water" lobby has recently been very successful in forcing the DEP to dilute its "Not Quite So Dirty Water" bill to more closely resemble industry's sewer pipe dream. The way the negotiations are going it should really be called the "least quality denominator" bill.

Long-time Update readers have often heard green lobbyists whine about the other side's lobby power. And although you're probably sick of hearing about it, it is depressing to face that kind of power day in and day out.

Although it happened in Washington not Charleston this week, We were reminded once again of Coal's long and powerful tentacles of influence. Bush the Pretender totally welched on his campaign promise to pursue stricter regulation of coal burning power plants. The local news correctly spun the decision as a great victory for the coal lobby.

The same kind of clout was evident Thursday when the US Senate voted overwhelmingly to tighten bankruptcy laws and give the credit card companies and the banks exactly what they lobbied for.

Yeah, the beat goes on but there is some hope for the long-range survival of our democracy. Senator Byrd outraged over the influence of money in our political system took what I consider to be the most courageous act of his career by introducing a constitutional amendment allowing congress to limit campaign spending. CAG and WVEC lobbyists immediately asked Delegate Mary Pearl Compton and Sen. Jon Hunter to sponsor a resolution praising Byrd for his rare act of courage. Watch for it to be out by E-Day!.

With 4 weeks left in the session the one thing we can predict is that stuff will heat up and get a lot more interesting. Another safe prediction is that major issues like smokeless tobacco, gray machines and dirty water will be decided in the session's last week. Stay tuned.

 

Don't Waste Yard Waste

Two bills are threatening the progress made on composting municipal yard waste. HB 2670 & SB332 deal with a rule change to eliminate mandatory composting of municipal yard waste. This was done by changing the word "practical" to "available" in the enacting rule (33CSR3) which allows the DEP Director to grant exemptions to cities and towns "when none of the foregoing options (for composting yard waste) are practical available." Contact the Judiciary Committee members of both the House and Senate and ask them to return the rule to its original wording.

Yard Waste is Solid Waste!

Senator Deem introduces a bill every year to eliminate yard waste from the official definition of solid waste. This year's bill, SB 12, is single referenced to Senate Natural Resources. The main problem with the bill is that commercial composting facilities would then be completely unregulated. Compost is not high-tech, but if not done properly, odors and community bad-will are generated.

Not everyone in the solid waste business is reputable. There are numerous cases of hazardous materials being mixed with materials to be composted as a way to circumvent expensive, responsible disposal of those hazardous materials. Regulation of commercial composting facilities is necessary to ensure a safe, marketable product. Contact members of the Natural Resources Solid Waste Subcommittee (see below) and ask them to vote "no" on SB12. For more information, see Tom Degen's piece on SB 12 in our Green Issues section.

Subterfuge in Sub-Committee?

The Senate Natural Resources committee appointed two sub-committees this week. One is "to study state park cost of operation and repair" and the other to study solid waste issues.

Senator Anderson is chair of the Parks group and Senator Snyder is head of the one on solid waste. Other members are: Ross, Love, Minear (Parks) and Ross, Minear, Minard, and Rowe (Solid Waste).

Rumors abound as to the intent of both these committees. Will they seek to privatize state parks? Roll back or weaken our solid waste laws? Senator Snyder has scheduled a meeting of his committee for 4PM on Monday in 208W and has indicated that universal collection will be on the agenda. Stay tuned!

 


Jobs V. Environment

by Norm Steenstra III

For the 7th year in a row, pro-industry legislators have introduced the Jobs Impact Bill. This bill would be bad for our state's workers because it would allow the various members of our government to poison environmental and labor bills, forcing them to be put on the shelf for a third of the session. There was a public meeting at 4:00 on March 15th in the House Chamber, for both sides to present their views regarding the bill. Only seven speakers were present, four in favor and three opposed to the bill. Industry, the Development Office and coal all spoke in favor of this bill.

Steve White of the ACT Foundation stated that our state currently doesn't have the resources to effectively enact this bill. He proved this by releasing a study on a company that the Development Office had given a grant to so that the company could expand. However the study concluded by finding out that the company had in fact downsized and had fewer employees after receiving the grant than before. CAG and WVEC also provided staunch opposition to the bill, by explaining that it was nothing more than a roadblock for the passage of pro-environmental or pro-labor bills.

We would like to thank K.O. Damron for his proclaiming us experts on roadblocks, but we would prefer to decline having to go through anymore to pass WV friendly bills.

 

Water Wars Barely Perking

by Nathan Fetty and Donald S. Garvin, Jr.

Legislative movement on the antidegradation rule is barely trickling along. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jon Amores put together a series of "stakeholder" meetings but they have yielded little.

Industry has yet to agree to any provisions other than those in their own Dirty Water Bill. And the highlight of Wednesday's meeting was an angry industry denouncement of DEP's map that depicts what areas are off-limits to development in the DEP plan.

"Foul," they cried! "Misleading and deceitful," they lamented! This, after industry had circulated its own preposterous map claiming that virtually the whole state would be closed to development and business if a strong antideg bill was implemented. The gall of these folks!

Both House and Senate Leaderships seem to be counting on the House Judiciary negotiations to result in a different bill than the one the Dirty Water Coalition has brought them. Leadership also seems to be hoping that the DEP version of antideg will take the heat off the legislature itself and stand up to the scrutiny of the federal EPA.

Does this mean that the Dirty Water Bill is dead? Of course not. We won't know for sure until Day 61, the day after the last night of the session.

As for the DEP bill, we like the fact that the expert agency is writing this very technical rule instead of industry, but we're not happy with everything that's in it. For instance, existing permits aren't required to go through antideg review, and nationwide permits (the ones used to permit large valley fills from mountaintop removal operations) are exempt as well. Also effectively exempted are nonpoint sources of pollution (like timbering and agriculture, a couple of the biggest sources of water pollution). Throughout the proposal, DEP would be given broad discretion whether or not to require antideg reviews not such a hot idea if we have a hands-off administration.

Although DEP has included a Tier 2.5 designation the list of waters of special concern, like reproducing trout streams, that industry threw out of the Dirty Water Bill DEP has yet to produce a new list of these waters. Hopefully, we will see the completed list next week. This list is critical to our support of any antideg proposal.

So what actions can you take on this issue? Keep up the calls to Governor Wise, DEP Director Callaghan and your local senators and delegates (contact info on page 7). Tell them to kill the Dirty Water Bill and support a strong antidegradation rule to protect our clean rivers and streams. Come to E-Day next week, visit your lawmakers in person, and tell them to flush the Dirty Water Bill down the drain.

IN ADDITION, the marathon negotiating sessions are open to the public and we'd love to see some faces there other than those of high-paid industry lobbyists (who are there in force). Your presence will tell lawmakers that citizens really do care about protecting our clean rivers and streams. As of now, the sessions will be on Monday, Wednesday and Friday of next week in the House Minority Committee Meeting Room on the main floor of the Capitol, to the left of the House Chamber at 3:30 p.m. Call West Virginia Rivers Coalition at (304) 637-7201 or WVEC at (304) 346-5905 to get up-to-the-minute schedules.

 

 

Letter of Support

Dear WVEC:

I thought I'd drop you a line and let you know how much I appreciate your tireless work for this region.

The first E-Day I attended was when I was in the 4th grade. I became a member of WVEC in 7th grade. I am now a freshman in high school and plan on making it to the next E-Day.

Much of the work you do is probably ignored or unrewarded. I would have to imagine that's frustrating. Please hang in there. Your group provides a much-needed voice of sanity and reason when many local leaders and the government turn a blind eye to things.

Thanks so much for doing what you do.

(Editor's note: We received this letter late last month from a renewing member -- thank you!!)

 

Coal Synchronizes Multi-front Attack

By Rick Eades, OVEC

Whoo! Whoo! All aboard the Almost-Hell-Yes Express. She's coal-fired, and everybody who's anybody is finding ways to stoke King Coal's furnace or going along for the ride.

President Bush reverses his campaign pledge to reduce coal's favorite greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide. After appointing industry advocate Gale Norton to the overseer throne of mining, this action confirms Bush is committed to re-writing the early chapters of the book of Revelations. To no one's surprise, "let the planet boil" is the official position of the Executive Branch.

Next door, Senator Robert C. Byrd (with ample support for Senate Bill 60) wants to add a new dimension to corporate welfare, by offering up $100 million a year of taxpayer money to "Mr. Clean-To-You" Coal. This "clean coal" legislation is so clean, the bill wants a 10-year pass from provisions of the Clean Air Act for new power plants. Oh yeah, it provides heavy incentives to build new coal-fired power plants and nothing for alternative energy and conservation.

Byrd implies new coal-fired plants will replace old polluting plants. Meanwhile, West Virginia's John Amos power plant continues to belch about 44 tons of lead, 25 tons of arsenic, and 12 tons of mercury into the air annually (1998 data). Amos delivers the largest production of electricity in the state's history and the chance of shutting it down in such a poor state is..? Consider the Legislative Branch on board with plans to further load the air, water, and soil with toxic heavy metals.

So what's up in the Judicial Branch? The hyper-conservative US 4th District Court of Appeals looms likely to reverse or weaken Judge Haden's decision that would limit the size of mountaintop removal mining valley fills. The Courts appear to be taking up residence in coal's camp too, and burying 1,000 miles of headwaters in one state is a mere beginning.

Enabling from every branch of government is nothing new for coal, but the level and synchronicity is new, especially in light of recent news regarding ever-clean coal.

Consider the new poster-child of coal-based environmental disasters, last October's 250,000,000 gallon slurry "spill" from a coal waste "pond" in Martin County, Kentucky. No release in US history has been larger, and yet it seems almost forgotten.

What we can't forget is that at least 97 similar "ponds" pock WV's coalfields. As if it wasn't obvious, the Kentucky spill totally wiped out life in the receiving streams, and left serious, long-term risks to water supplies. It left sludge which contains arsenic, lead, and components of fuel oil lining about 75 miles of streams and rivers.

So here's a great idea let's expand Raleigh County's Brushy Fork slurry impoundment until the dam reaches 920 feet in height, to store as much as 5,000,000,000 gallons of coal cleaning slurry, directly over underground mine workings. No problem, regulatory officials are on the job, just like they were under eerily similar circumstances in Martin County, Ky. OVEC, the Coal River Mountain Watch, and Marshall student activism group (SAFE) joined local residents on March 1 in filing an appeal to the permit renewal.

These impoundments loom over headwater environments and downstream water supply intakes forever. As every geologist will agree, it's not a matter of "if" this colossal volume of waste material will erode and redeposit in our nations streams and rivers, it's only a matter of "when."

So, besides the avalanche of evidence that burning coal pollutes our air and contributes to global warming, processing waste from coal leaves nightmares for posterity, and extracting coal will continue to lop off mountains, fill streams, and expand undermining of homes, churches, and even Interstate highways decision-makers at every level are promoting coal.

If it wasn't enough that coal operators, regulators, and all branches of US government together are stoking the boiler, make room for the West Virginia Legislature.

The Senate EIM committee acted on March 14 to turn several provisions of surface mining laws (SB 239, next stop Senate Judiciary) into soft serve. To prepare the stage for fast track approval of mountaintop removal and deep mine/longwall permits, EIM adopted DEP's recommendations to: (1) weaken valley fill/stream protection regulations; (2) made mush of a new definition of material damage to residents and water supplies (damage must be "long term or permanent"); and get this, (3) allow land subsidence damage to go unabated for an underdetermined period of time, "if the subsidence is not complete!"

What? And wait how long after the highways collapse, or churches cave in before we repair the damage? Until all the honeycombed earth has collapsed; after all the long wall mining; brought on by all the taxpayer-financed gifts Byrd wants to bestow on Our Sisters-of-the-Needy Coal? Maybe a call to your legislators is in order.

This mega-muscle backlash to facilitate coal can be largely tied to the Haden decision to limit valley fills in streams. But, this seems more like the stuff of paramilitary novels. On how many fronts can coal attack at once? How many can you think of? Certainly, Bill Raney, a colonel in the National Guard, is enjoying this multi-prong attack.

Is there any end to the enabling by lawmakers, judges, and enforcement agencies to bolster King Coal? To even the most tepid environmentalist, I say, God help us. Because coal interests are certainly helping themselves.

While we may pray that the combined folly of devastation from coal extraction, processing, waste disposal, and air emissions doesn't create absolute waste lands, let's also pray that future generations will forgive those who at least tried to slow this energy-drunk madness.

If you can't imagine how to turn around such a runaway train, at least you can immediately turn off every electrical appliance or use possible and strongly advocate others do the same. Advocate that our "leaders" push equally hard for fuel cell development (a truthfully clean energy source). Otherwise, consider yourself complicit in fueling the train of destruction.


Anti-Litter Bill

by Julie Archer

On Wednesday, HB 2222 was amended in the Senate Judiciary Committee to include the language from Senator Unger's version, SB 384. A proposal by Senator Hunter (SB 406) which authroizes litter control officers to issue citations for littering was also added to the bill.

The bill was up for a final vote today in the full Senate. The amended version passed with no opposition and now goes back to the House. Should the House refuse to accept the Senate changes, a conference committee will be appointed to come up with a compromise. Stay tuned.

 

 

Remember!!

To track bills on-line, go to www.legis.state.wv.us

 

Important Meeting

Do you want a mountaintop removal mine facing the Kanawha River? The Pritchard Mining Company has a proposed mining project that would do just that. Please plan on attending an informal conference concerning this mine on Monday, March 19 at 5PM at the East Bank City Hall Conference Room in East Bank. If you have anything to say on this proposed mining project, the time in now!

 

 

Still Shameless, Still Pleading

We are at the session's half-way mark, and we still striving to met the financial goals for funding this year's lobby effort. We do have a couple of fundraisers upcoming, but unless more of you more of US dig down deeper into your pockets and hearts, we will come up short. We have a dedicated group of talented and hard-working individuals out there fighting the good fight every day of the session. Please do what you can to help out.

So if you haven't renewed your WVEC membership, please do so today. And if you have renewed or bought raffle tickets, please consider sending something extra, or buying more raffle tickets (raffles tickets are available by sending $5 a ticket to 1324 Virginia St., E, Charleston, WV 25301. You don't need to be present to win at April 14 drawing. We'll send your ticket back to you in the mail).

And please try to attend the E-Day! fundraisers on Wednesday night, March 21 (see front page). There will be great music, folks and fun. Meet the lobby team you have supported with your donations. Come out and celebrate the work we all do to protect West Virginia's environment. Thanks for your support. We couldn't do it without you.

 

Correction and Explanation

In reading the bill lists we provided, some of you may have gotten the impression that Del. Virginia Mahan was a sponsor of the Dirty Water Bill. That's not the case, and, in fact, Del. Mahan cast one of the three votes against the measure. The confusion is caused by the procedure which was used to move the bill, which was approved in the joint Legislative Rulemaking Committee and therefore became the committee bill. Del. Mahan is co-chair of that committee, and so her name appeared on our list as a sponsor. We are correcting our list to clear up this confusion.

Bassage Gets New DEP Post

New DEP Director Mike Callaghan announced Thursday that he has appointed former Small Business Ombudsman Dave Bassage as head of a new DEP "innovative policy unit." In a press release Callaghan said he expects the move to result in new ideas on "how we can do things in an environmentally friendly way and also let business develop." Many of you know Dave Bassage as the former executive director of Friends of the Cheat and current board member of the West Virginia Rivers Coalition. Congratulations, Dave.

 

Salute To The Best of The Greens

WVEC is proud to announce its 2001 E-Day! award winners. The Mother Jones Award goes to Jim Sconyers who, for a decade, has been one of the most diligent watch guards of the Mon Forest, the Blackwater Canyon and, more recently, the electric deregulation issue. We are saddened that Jim is leaving WV for a job in New Hampshire and are thankful to have this chance to honor him.

The Chuck Chambers Public Service award will be presented to Delegate Mary Pearl Compton who, for the last dozen years, has been the most consistent voice for social justice and environmental protection in the Legislature.

The Grassroots Activist Award this year should really be called the Cyberspace Pro Award for Chris Hogbin's amazing e-tree that she has set up and maintained year-round for the last two years. Her dedication has made our lobby efforts leaner, meaner and greener.

The Linda Schnautz Environmental Courage Award recognizes co-winners Jimmy Weekly and Carlos Gore for their brave and stubborn stand against the Arch Coal Company's mega-mountaintop removal job that shadows their homes and has destroyed their quality of life.

Hearty congratulations and appreciation to these green leaders from the entire environmental community!

 

WVRC To Release Report at E-Day! Press Conference

The West Virginia Rivers Coalition (WVRC) will hold a press conference at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, March 21 (E-Day!) in the North Briefing Room of the Cultural Center at the Capitol Complex in Charleston.

The purpose of the press conference is to release a report entitled, "Achieving Balance: Improving Public Participation in West Virginia's NPDES Permitting Process." This report was developed over the course of a year-long review and analysis of nineteen randomly selected NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) permits approved by the WV Division of Environmental Protection (DEP).

WVRC's Permit Analysis Program was formed in May 2000 to promote public participation in the state's water pollution discharge permitting process by conducting research, publishing reports, sponsoring workshops, serving as a resource for permit-related questions, and supporting watershed organizations in their efforts to watchdog local permits. Program Director Evan Hansen will be on hand to detail the report, its findings, and the recommendations developed to enhance DEP's public participation component of the permitting process.

The report's findings and recommendations, as they relate to antidegradation, will also be discussed. Antidegradation is a required component of the Clean Water Act intended to keep clean waters clean, and is currently the hottest environmental issue before the WV Legislature.

WVRC Executive Director Jeremy P. Muller and Renae Bonnett from the Heizer Manila Watershed Organization will also participate in the press conference.

Background information is available on the web at www.wvrivers.org. For more information, call (304) 637-7201 or e-mail jmuller@neumedia.net.

 

Special PBS Program

On Monday, March 26, Bill Moyer's groundbreaking investigative report on the chemical industry will air nationally on PBS. "Trade Secrets" will uncover how our health and safety have been put at risk and why powerful forces within chemical corporations don't want the truth known. Please check your TV listings for program time.

 

Promises We Don't Need

In a stunning about face, President George Bush announced this week that he is opposed to federal rules to curb CO2 emissions. Bush broke a promise made during the campaign to support CO2 regulations after encountering strong resistance from coal and oil industries and from Republican allies in Capitol Hill, reports The Washington Post.

Bush also abandoned EPA Director Christine Todd Whitman who only days ago had indicated that the Administration would keep its promise to take substantial action to address global climate change by regulating CO2.

Bush cited an Energy Department study showing that restrictions in CO2 emissions would lead to higher energy prices. Coal and oil industry officials said Bush's decision ensures a more "balanced" energy and environmental policy. Industry officials also warned that any effort to cap carbon emissions would complicate or foil administration efforts to boost domestic energy production.

Bush Promises to Drill the Arctic

The Administration continues to promote an energy policy calling for oil drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge, the Front Range of the Rockies, and many other wild places across the nation. Just as the Administration justifies no action on climate change due to the "energy crisis," they are arguing that America must sacrifice its few remaining wildlands for a few month's worth of oil.

Bush Promises to Roll Back National Monument Protections

With much fanfare, Interior Secretary Norton recently announced that the Administration would not overturn the National Monuments created by President Clinton. Nobody mentioned that President Bush doesn't have the power to revoke these designations. However, the President, with help from Congress, can pass legislation or riders to change National Monument boundaries or allow oil drilling, off-road vehicles and mining.

Please contact Chief of Staff Andrew Card at 202/456-6797, fax 202/456-1907 and let him know you are very disappointed in President Bush's environmental policies. Urge the President to:

1. Support regulations reducing CO2 emissions to curb global climate change;

2. Oppose drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge and other wild places; and

3. Oppose opening any National Monuments to mining, oil drilling, off-road vehicles or other harmful activities.

 

 

Contact Information

Governor Wise: governor@wvgov.org

Legislators: cglagola@mail.wvnet.edu

(put Senator or Delegate's name in subject line)

or write to:

The Honorable _____________

Member, WV Senate or House of Delegates

Bldg. 1, State Capitol Complex

Charleston, WV 25305

You can fax letters to (304) 347-4819

 

DEP Director Callaghan: mcallaghan@mail.dep.state.wv.us

or call 304-759-0570

 

Call Your Legislators toll-free at: 1-877-565-3447

Call Governor Wise toll-free at: 1-888-438-2731/558-2000 (Charleston)

And you can go on-line to www.legis.state.wv.us for bill tracking, committee announcements, public hearing announcements, floor calendars and daily and weekly floor actions.

 

 

Send Us Your E-Mail Address!!!

To receive action alerts on the latest issues, e-mail Chris at cahogbin@cs.com. Be sure to include your name, address, phone.

 

WRITE LETTERS TO THE EDITOR!

for addresses of all WV newspapers:

www.wvmediaguide.com