WVEC Legislative Update

March 30, 2001

A Wacky Week on Water Wars

by Nathan Fetty and Donald S. Garvin, Jr.

This week's water battles have been many and varied, with ebbs and flows (and political arm twisting) at every turn. The House Judiciary Committee passed out the DEP "compromise" rule rather than industry's Dirty Water Bill.

The message to legislators this week is: The DEP proposal is dangerously weak. Please don't make it any weaker!! Urge your lawmakers to protect trout streams. And tell them not to weaken an already weak bill. Tell them to fend off any industry amendments. See contact info on page 7.

The water rules have been bundled into a much larger bill with a host of other environmental protection rules. When referring to antideg at this point, be sure to refer to HB 2663, its new number.

Monday was the last day of antidegradation stakeholder negotiations with House Judiciary Chairman Jon Amores and Legislative Rulemaking Review Chair Virginia Mahan. Not surprisingly, industry made no agreements to anything, and Amores made it clear that the DEP proposal would be the vehicle for moving the rule in House Judiciary.

The antideg rule sprouted legs pretty quickly, and the Judiciary Committee took up the bill Tuesday afternoon. It was a five-hour ordeal, with the committee first adopting and passing the DEP proposal by voice vote, then voting 13-12 to bring the bill back for reconsideration. The committee was trying to buck the chairman's recommendation on the DEP rule; industry had obviously worked overtime on a bunch of committee members. After a great deal more discussion (and subtle arm twisting by leadership in the meantime, including an appearance by Senate Judiciary Chair Bill Wooton) the committee passed the DEP proposal again, 16-9. This was a very significant vote, with the committee bucking intense lobbying by every major industry in the state.

Voting in favor of the DEP rule were Delegates Amores, Manuel, Craig, Webster, Wills, Hrutkay, Mahan, Randy White, Mike Caputo, Fleischauer, Thompson, Pethel, Ferrell, Spencer, Joe Smith and Pino.

Industry pulled out all the stops at this point, with many delegates receiving calls from constituents who had swallowed the Industry bait and were opposing DEP's bill. The bill came up for first reading in the House on Thursday, and we were preparing for a floor battle today, when industry amendments likely would be flying. (Bills must go through three readings on three separate days, passing on third reading).

But Thursday afternoon, industry quietly slipped into a meeting with Speaker Bob Kiss, House leadership, governor's staff, and DEP Director Mike Callaghan. Noticeably absent and uninvited were those of us from the public interest sector! We learned that industry is especially furious over the inclusion in DEP's bill of Tier 2.5 protections for "waters of special concern" like trout streams, but apparently DEP refused to budge on this provision.

At press time, HB 2663 has been removed from the House calendar, meaning it won't be taken up today. We don't yet know what that means for the bill's future. Will it die? Will it be amended to appease industry? Will it be left alone? Can the House leadership pull together enough votes to pass its own bill?

Our message has been and continues to be that HB 2663 is dangerously weak, and shouldn't be made weaker. Although it recognizes that trout streams need to be protected and that high quality streams shouldn't be given lower protections if they're impaired, it has lots of problems, and is far from a bill that we're happy with. It exempts valley fills, and effectively exempts the timber and agriculture industries. It also exempts existing polluters from review.

One interesting development was that labor unions endorsed the DEP proposal on Thursday, laying to rest the industry lies about how anything other than the Dirty Water Bill means that jobs are thrown out the window and West Virginia's borders are closed to economic development.

Industry has a full court press on the House of Delegates, and we need to do the same. Keep up the calls, faxes and e-mails to your delegates, and even visit them if you can.

If any of these delegates are yours, please contact them ASAP with the message that HB2663 is weak and shouldn't be made weaker:

Delegates Beach, Boggs, B. Brown, T. Campbell, Cann, Douglas, Doyle, Flanigan, Fletcher, Fragale, Hatfield, Hubbard, Kuhn, Leach, Louisos, Marshall, Michael, Paxton, Mezzatesta, Prunty, Smirl, Staton, Susman, Varner, G. White, Wright.

Thanks!

Thanks to Delegate Virginia Mahan who has been working intensely on the antidegradation issue. She worked with other House leaders to bring all the parties to the table on this issue, and facilitated several of these stakeholder meetings. We appreciate her interest in and work on this important clean water issue.

Also, we are very grateful to attorney Joe Lovett, who was our lead representative during these negotiations, and continues to offer invaluable advice. He has been a solid, constant voice for those of us who want West Virginia's rivers and streams properly protected.

Waste Tire Bounty with Teeth

by Gary Zuckett

Senator Rowe (D-Kanawha) has introduced SB635 that amends the current law permitting the state highway commissioner to pay a bounty for the drop-off of waste tires.

The new language mandates the establishment of a waste tire bounty program to "encourage the special cleanup from time to time of abandoned waste tires and improve the natural beauty and safety of the state." In other words, it would allow for targeting areas for cleanup and developing a process to collect waste tires using the $1 bounty as an incentive. Funding of the bounty would be from the $2 disposal tax already on the books.

The Senate Finance Committee has this one. Call the Chair or any Committee member and ask them to pass out SB635.

Ballot Access Bill in House

by Gary Zuckett

HB 2928, by Delegates Compton, Hubbard, and Fleischauer, is a win-win proposal for both third parties and the established major parties.

At present, the only way for emerging parties to acquire ballot status is to run a candidate for governor and get the required percentage of the vote in the general election. This effectively places a bulls-eye on the governor's race that any aspiring third party must shoot for to become established.

HB 2928 would broaden the scope of the law to allow new parties to run a candidate for any state-wide office and qualify. This is a common practice in other states and should be the law in West Virginia. Call House Judiciary Chair Amores (340-3252) and ask him to pass HB 2928.

Election Finance Reform

WV Style

While the U.S. Congress debates legislation to restrict "soft money," i.e., funds donated directly to political parties, the WV House of Delegates is considering legislation to increase allowable contributions. The Speaker, Majority Leader, and Judiciary Chairman, among others, are sponsors of HB 3175. Expect this bill to fly regardless of the fact that the majority of West Virginians (and Americans) feel there is already too much money in politics. Bill text was not available at this writing but we've heard that it would double the legal limits on such contributions. It is single referenced to House Judiciary.

Economic Development Update

by Julie Archer

The Economic Development Accountability Act, HB 2600, is still frozen in the Economic Development and Small Business Committee; however, the Senate version of the bill (SB 572) was introduced this week and is sponsored by Senator Larry Rowe. It is hoped that the Senate will take swifter action on this desperately needed legislation than the House, but only time will tell.

Last week the House committee on Economic Development and Small Business did take action on the Jobs Impact bill and passed it on to the Finance committee where it has yet to be taken up. With any luck the committee will decide to work on other legislation and the bill will die quietly.

Unbalanced Board?

SB 631 has been introduced to allow for the creation of the "West Virginia Clean Coal Technology Board." This board is supposed to study, recommend, promote and implement, through pilot projects, clean coal technology and alternative uses for coal.

The council is to be made up of six members of the public, three senators, and three delegates, all appointed by the Senate President and the House Speaker. Considering the present office holders, we know how progressive this board will be.

If some provision were made to include environmentalists, coal workers, owners, and potentially affected citizens on the board, this bill might be something other than another shameless promotion of the coal industry. Currently twenty-seven of our thirty-four Senators are listed as sponsors.

More On Coal

by Julie Archer

Two bills dealing with coal mining appear to be on the fast track in the Senate. Both bills were introduced on Tuesday (the last day to introduce new bills in the Senate) and came up in the Energy, Industry and Mining Committee on Wednesday.

SB 689, which amends sections of the Surface Mining and Reclamation Act that relate to conducting preblast surveys and blasting requirements for surface mines, was quickly passed out of the committee and was up for first reading on the Senate floor today. Nearly all the amendments were requested by DEP after the Office of Surface Mining mandated the changes. Language which exempted underground coal mining from the preblast survey requirements has been removed and additional language was added to make the requirements apply to surface disturbances at underground mines.

While the bill has its good points, it has some negative aspects as well. One amendment potentially weakens the required preblast notification to residents. Another amendment weakens the liability and civil penalties section by exempting mines that are smaller than 200 acres (or fewer than 300 contiguous acres) from certain fines and penalties.

SB 603 (and its House companion, HB 3091) provides local economic development interests with a legitimate means to support more mountaintop removal by requiring that their recommendations for postmining land use be included in reclamation plans. Coal companies could be exempted from restoring the land to its approximate original contour based on these development plans and there is no guarantee that the "recommended" postmining land-use will occur. Essentially, companies could spend less money on reclamation by leaving larger areas for the "recommended" postmine land-use.

The biggest concern with this legislation is that it opens up a major loophole that could justify not performing contemporaneous reclamation (ongoing reclamation that occurs during mining). We are working on possible amendments that would ease some of our concerns.

Sunday Hunting: Fur or Agin

by Norm Steenstra, WV-CAG Executive Director

After more than a decade of trying to legislate Sunday hunting in West Virginia, the pro-hunting lobby seems on the verge of victory. An issue such as Sunday hunting is a good one to illustrate the WVEC's role and to examine our decision-making process.

To my knowledge, WVEC has never taken an official position on Sunday hunting. In past sessions, I've been personally opposed to the concept but never officially represented that position for any organization.

As a non-hunter, Sunday is the only fall day that I can safely walk in the woods with pets and loved ones. I learned years ago that posted signs on private land meant nothing to most game stalkers.

The politics of Sunday hunting are interesting. Our sometimes-allies in organized labor are for Sunday hunting. Our usual nemesis, the Farm Bureau, is against it. The NRA loves the idea because, well, you know why.

In the past several years, there's been an internal debate within the WVEC. Some folks think that the Council should restrict itself to lobbying one or two issues, such as Dirty Water or timber regulations. Such an approach would sure make it easier on the lobby team.

The other side of the argument also has some merit. Very often special interest groups initiate things we just didn't have on our radar screen. Yard waste, electric deregulation, Dirty Secrets, recycling, Flood Thy Neighbor, Job Impact Statement, Energy Tax Credits, coal mining regulations, etc., etc. are all good examples.

Each of these are just as critical to a holistic green approach as Dirty Water. Couple these with process or legal issues like open meetings, Budget Digest, election reform, victim's rights, and changes in corporate liability and it gets even more complicated.

Is our mission to focus on one or two "big" topics or to provide a broad and united presence before the governor, the legislator and state media?

I digress. What about Sunday hunting? How important an issue is it to us? How does the WVEC make that determination?

I would find it useful to hear from Update readers and WV-CAG members as to what posture and how much energy should be given to Sunday hunting. The bill in its current form is not a blanket legalized Sunday hunting policy. Sunday hunting can only be permitted on private land where the hunter has written permission. The bill still protects public land but, to many of us, it may be the proverbial camel's nose under the tent, creating the opportunity for a broader Sunday hunting policy in the future.

If you have any comments, e-mail me at nsteenstra@wvwise.org.

OVEC Action Items

Thanks to an Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition (OVEC) member for this idea:

Go to Governor Wise's "Nominate your special places for our Land preservation" web page at www.state.wv.us/governor/nom.land.pres.htm and nominate Blair Mountain, near the town of Blair in Logan County, to be preserved as a special place. You have a couple of blanks to fill in and you can add comments.

Blair Mountain was the site of the second largest domestic conflict (number one being the Civil War). Miners and U.S. forces battled here. The site is important for WV and national history. Mountain removal has about ruined Blair and more is pending.

In other news, PLEASE PLAN TO ATTEND a National Academy of Sciences sludge impoundment public meeting on April 2 from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Radisson, 1001 3rd Avenue in downtown Huntington. Hydrogeologist Rick Eades will be there representing OVEC.

Litter Bill Update

by Clint Hogbin, EPPEC

Here's the latest!! Governor Wise did in fact veto HB 2222. However, it was a technical veto (versus a budget veto, philosophical veto, etc.). Which means his attorneys found a legal flaw in the law that they felt would have possibly rendered the entire proposed law indefensible in a court of law. The flaw was not actually with the anti-litter language, it was in a "floor amendment" relating to the responsibilities of solid waste authorities. HB 2222 was one of the few (2?) pieces of solid waste legislation moving so the proponents of the amendment tagged their language onto our fast-moving bill. Anyway, "someone" forgot to amend the title of the bill with the floor amendment an apparent mistake since the amendment did NOT specifically relate to litter.

So, the Governor's Office vetoed the bill because of the lack of correct title to the bill.

Now the good news!!! The House and Senate agreed to the changes and each body voted to pass the bill again. In an effort to meet one of the constitution deadlines (Friday), all rules for 3 readings were dispensed. So, HB 2222 has AGAIN passed the legislative action and AGAIN awaits the signature of Governor Wise. His office has assured me he WILL sign it into law. Fortunately, the original HB 2222 passed early enough in the process to allow for time to address this situation.

Houston- we have a litter bill.

Logging Reform

by Kathy Judge, CORL

INTERESTED IN THE FORESTS OF WV? WANT LOGGING REFORM? NOW'S YOUR CHANCE!

Two of the three seats for the citizen members-at-large on the Forest Management Review Commission are now open. I was told by the Governor's office that the terms could be as short as two years or as long as six. The FMRC works on forestry issues and in the past has taken stands on managed timberland (for) and received briefings on National Forest Issues and the development of the Strategic Forest Management Plan. The commission is also responsible for an annual report to the Joint Committee on Government and Finance. The commission consists of five senators, five delegates, and four representatives of the forest industry, besides the three citizen members.

Commission meetings are held in conjunction with regular Legislative interim meetings whenever forestry issues are involved. Send a resume and cover letter to: Office of the Governor, 1900 Kanawha Blvd.E, Charleston, WV 25305. ATTENTION: Chip Slaven. Good luck!
WV Timber Reform

by Kathy L. Judge, C.O.R.L. Coordinator

There are now two timber bills, SB658 and SB659, sponsored by Senator John Mitchell and cosponsors Senators Kessler, Hunter, Rowe and Bowman. Both bills will go first to the Natural Resources Committee, with Chairman Walt Helmick and Vice Chairman John Mitchell. Additionally, the other members are as follows: Leonard Anderson, Edwin J. Bowman, Oshel B. Craigo, Shirley D. Love, Joseph M. Minard, Robert H. Plymale, Roman W. Prezioso, Mike Ross, Larry L. Rowe, Herb Snyder, J. Frank Deem and Sarah M. Minear.

SB658 deals with the PERMITTING and BMP'S. SB659 focuses on ENFORCEMENT. It will take calls from you to make the difference in getting these bills passed.

TIME IS RUNNING OUT! WE NEED YOUR HELP! Call your legislators at 1-877-565-3447 and ask them to support these bills and help clean up LOGGING in WV. Please tell them "NOW" is the best time for "ACTION" on this issue! Or, if you could make a personal visit that would be great.

Please e-mail me at corljudge@aol.com with the names of who you contacted so I can track it. Also, please pass the word to your friends and organizational constituencies. I can also be reached at 545-5078.

Thank you all in advance for your hard work!

Favorite Places

The West Virginia Highlands Conservancy website has an invitation from Governor Bob Wise for nominations for special places in WV that should be preserved. You can help save your favorite places at www.wvhighlands.org.

Local Raptor Chapter

On Saturday June 9 at Mountain State Outfitters in Kanawha City from 1-3 PM there will be a fund/awareness raiser for the West Virginia Raptor Rehabilitation Center (WVRRC) of Morgantown.

The WVRRC is a non-profit organization dedicated to rescuing and rehabilitating injured birds of prey for release back into the wild, and providing education and awareness.

The WVRRC was bequested a 300-acre tract of land and envisions fashioning areas of the property into a nature center, and building a new and modern facility in which to treat the birds and educate the public. If you would like more information on the Center or are interested in starting a local chapter for education, awareness and fundraising support, please contact Kim Pettry at 345-1868 or e-mail to:Kimpettry@hotmail.com.

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