WVEC Legislative Update

April 6, 2001

 

Wacky Week Seven

by Gary Zuckett

The next to last week at the legislature is always wild as each body is frantically trying to get its bills passed by week's end. Any bill that fails to pass out of its originating body (House or Senate) to the other by close of business Friday is dead. This is the beginning of the confusion that cumulates with the "Fat Possums" (bills loaded with all manner of pork and dirty favors) racing the clock to midnight the last night.

The fight over water anti-degradation continues to be one of the session's defining issues. The Dirty Water Coalition has put enormous pressure on House leadership and rank-and-file Delegates to pass its anti-clean water version. The DEP version became the "Governor's Bill" this week when Wise came out in strong support of his DEP Director. Leadership, fearing loss of face if its Judiciary bill (DEP version) failed or was gutted (or had Dirty Water amendments) on the House floor, punted with a tactic that had everyone scratching his or her head (see water article).

As the lies that built the Dirty Water Coalition are exposed, the Coalition is beginning to crumble. Tourism was conspicuously missing from its latest propaganda piece and other big names are rumored to be pulling out.

The logging bills are a victim of the Friday deadline. They never saw the light of day after being referred to the Senate Natural Resources Committee, a body that, despite its name, is not generally friendly to green issues. Anticipating this problem, CORL is working to get the Committee to approve an interim study of the timber issue.

The coal lobby has been busy under the cover provided by the water fight to move several bills which will make it harder to sue on mountaintop mining and easier to leave mining sites flat instead of piling the rubble up to approximate original contour (see Julie's article)

Judge Haden's ruling on coal bonding (see Ken Ward's article) came down as we watched the "Dirty Water" action in the House yesterday. Today a bill was generated in the Senate to give the DEP director discretion to exceed the $5,000 per acre limit on bonding for coal mining. This bill (with no number at this time) will no doubt gain special consideration and beat today's deadline. Such is the influence of King Coal.

So many other factors besides our "green" issues influence the atmosphere at the session. To get an overall picture, these must be taken into account. Included in this mailing is a complimentary copy of the WV Citizen Action Update that tells some of the "rest of the story." This first- year publication is also available at www.wvcag.org.

 

First You Say You Do & Then You Don't!

by Donald S. Garvin, Jr. and Nathan Fetty

The legislative landscape for an antidegradation implementation plan has changed so many times this week that our heads are still spinning. Actually, things are changing hour to hour and minute to minute, so that by the time you read this the information may be obsolete.

The most immediate venue of action now is the Senate Judiciary Committee, where Chairman Bill Wooton has appointed a subcommittee to take up SB 381, the "Dirty Water Bill" version of antideg on Sunday.

The subcommittee is chaired by Mike Ross, because he is the interim rulemaking committee chair. Other members are Karen Facemyer (R) from Ripley, Michael Oliverio (D) from Morgantown, John Mitchell (D) from Charleston, and Herb Snyder (D) from the Eastern Panhandle.

The subcommittee, then the full committee, and then the full Senate will decide whether to pass, amend, or kill the industry bill. Then the Senate will have to deal with whatever the House has done; finally, everything will end up in a conference committee with action being taken probably at the eleventh hour of the last night of the session.

So where's antideg on the House side? As this article is being written, the House is preparing to pass HB 2663 without any antidegradation implementation plan, along with a new bill, HB 3240, which would instead direct the DEP to promulgate an antideg policy as an "emergency rule" by July 1st of this year (remember, they just removed the DEP antideg plan from HB 2663 amazing!). Both bills are past the amendment stage and due for final reading and passage late this afternoon.

We prepped delegates all week to reject industry amendments to HB 2663, and then HB 3240 reared its ugly head and things got really crazy. Whatever emergency rule DEP promulgates will then have to be dealt with by the legislature again next year! The House asked DEP to write a rule, then withdrew that rule from HB 2663, and now is directing DEP to write a rule that will be taken up just a couple of months before the primary election. Bizarre!

On Tuesday we met with Speaker Kiss, members of House leadership, and officials from DEP, to discuss the action leadership might take on the DEP proposal. The Speaker told us he was personally very comfortable with the DEP proposal, and that "leadership would support the DEP bill unless there were 51 votes against it." How's that for a strong leadership position?

Meanwhile, both DEP and the Governor have been "working" their bill hard. In a Tuesday interview with the Charleston Gazette, Wise praised the DEP bill. He noted that it provides additional protections to more than 2,000 miles of high-quality state streams. "Many of those are our most treasured trout streams," Wise said.

In the same interview Wise called the DEP bill a "common-sense, middle-ground" piece of legislation. But the governor also admitted, "With our proposal, you have about the bottom-line acceptability with EPA."

Meanwhile, the Dirty Water Coalition seems to be having trouble keeping its members together. We have been told that the WV Hospitality and Tourism Association has jumped ship, as has Dupont. The only state agency NOT listed as supporting the Governor's DEP proposal is the Department of Agriculture.

So now antidegradation keeping our state's clean waters clean has become part of the political shoving match between legislative leadership and the Governor (if you are following other aspects of the legislative session this year, you already know that this is not unique to antideg).

What You Can Do:

For now the action is out of the House, so it's time to stop sending messages to House members, particularly those we know are friendly to our position on the issue.

Secondly, it IS time to keep the calls and messages flowing to the Governor, praising him for supporting antidegradation of West Virginia's high quality rivers and streams, and urging him to keep up the pressure on the legislature to pass a strong antidegradation implementation plan (see contact info on page 7).

Finally, it appears that Sen. Michael Oliverio will be the "swing vote" in the Senate Judiciary subcommittee meeting this Sunday. He needs to hear THIS WEEKEND from all of you who live in his district. Tell him to vote against industry's Dirty Water Bill version of antideg (SB 381), and ask him to support, in its place, as a bottom line, an unweakened version of the DEP antideg proposal. His number is (304) 357-7919 (more contact info on page 7).

We will keep you posted via phone and email action alerts all next week with additional ways you can help out.

Meanwhile, we are trying to prepare our psyches for the hectic madness of the last week of the session. Perhaps we will survive.

 

Survivors

by Gary Zuckett

Jobs Impact ( HB 2772) passed the House today. This is the one that would kill good enviro and labor bills by adding a "jobs impact assessment" whenever leadership desired.

Timber Theft ( HB 2891) makes it a felony to steal timber and was voted out of the House today also. As always, enforcement is the real test.

Yard Waste (SB 332) retains the word change to "available" that relaxes the mandatory composting of municipal yard waste. It was bundled into SB 330, an enviro rules package, and taken back by Senate Judiciary in anticipation of the house enviro rules arriving on Monday.

Waste Tire Management (SB 333), also bundled into SB 330, allows Div of Highways to landfill tires collected from tire piles, bounty programs and illegal dumps if no other option is available.

Windmill Tax Giveaway (HB 2968) is now in Senate Finance, Sunday Hunting (HB2146) in Senate Natural Resources, and Amendments to Blasting Regs ( SB689) is ticking away in House Judicary.

Civil penalties for Water pollution are still increased in SB 574, now in House Judiciary, but now the DEP director has a loophole to negotiate "alternatives" to any fines for polluters in this bill now in House Judiciary.

 

Coal Update

by Julie Archer

Last week I wrote on two coal related bills, SB 689 which amends sections of the Surface Mining and Reclamation Act that relate to conducting preblast surveys and blasting requirements for surface mines, and SB 603 which provides local economic development authorities with a legitimate means to support more mountaintop removal by requiring that their recommendations for postmining land use be included in reclamation plans. Both bills have been amended and are now out of the Senate, but the premise of each bill is still the same.

Of the two, SB 603 is the one to be most concerned about. It provides a major loophole that could allow coal companies to justify not performing reclamation. Please call your Delegates and tell them to vote against this bill. Also call Senator Hunter and thank him for his no vote on passage of the bill on the Senate Floor. This was a brave move as the sponsor of the bill is Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin.

Another coal-related bill that was reported on last week in GREEN was SB 631, which allows for the creation of the "West Virginia Clean Coal Technology Board." This bill also passed the Senate this week and, as the bill is written, the board would be very unbalanced. Call your Delegates and tell them not to support this bill unless it is amended to include greens, coal workers, owners and potentially affected citizens.

 

Anti What??

WVEC lobby team member Mike Withers reports the following conversation he had with an unnamed Senator this week:

When asked by the Senator what he was working on, Mike replied that he was working on water issues. The Senator laughed and said he'd been getting some phone calls from constituents about that.

The Senator's secretary told him of one such call she had received asking the Senator "to vote agin' that anti-graduation bill."

The secretary asked the caller if there was any particular part of the bill that he opposed.

The caller replied, "No. I've just been told by the Farm Bureau to call and say I'm agin' the whole thing."

 

A Generation Too Late

by Norm Steenstra, WV-CAG Executive Director

Twenty three years ago I owned 5% of a small underground coal mine in Clay County. Because of the recently enacted Surface Mining Reclamation Law, we obtained a new mining permit and posted a reclamation bond. The purpose of the bond was to cover the state's cost of cleaning up the site if the company went belly up. For a variety of reasons including lack of capital, new regulations, poor management, lousy coal and a terrible market, the company failed. Several hundred other small operations across the state also went out of business in an 18-month period. The fat lady sang her song for small independent operators in West Virginia.

Our company, lacking the equipment and the expertise to properly reclaim our three acres of mess, made a conscientious decision to let the state take the bond and do the work for us. Naively, foolishly, whatever you want to call it, we assumed that the state would have required a bond that covered the true cost of the clean-up. We actually thought at the time that the state would probably make money on our misfortune.

Boy, were we wrong. We were wrong by a factor of five. The bond amount did not include the cost of treating acid mine drainage. The state paid five times the amount of our bond to a company owned by a future DEP Director to clean up our mess. Keep in mind that dozens of mines were failing each month with the same inadequate bonds.

The state got stuck with millions of dollars in reclamation costs and operators like Gaston Caperton and me got off with just a little bad press.

Since at least 1989, folks like Cindy Rank and the WVEC have been working to get the regulators and the legislature to require that the bonds reflect the actual potential liability. Guess what! For the last 12 years we've been unsuccessful in getting "site specific" bonding. The Judge Hayden decision on bonding handed down yesterday is a major victory for the taxpayers and a crushing defeat for coal. It couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of guys.

We just learned at 2:30 Friday afternoon that the Senate Judiciary Committee passed a new bill that gives the DEP Director the authority to issue site-specific bonding. If you have any doubt of the power of coal, this bill was written and passed out of committee 18 hours after Haden's decision. Without this bill, the Haden decision would have virtually shut down new coal permits. Sometimes it takes a lawsuit to bring sanity to a system.

Editor's note: See Ken Ward's article (click here) for more on the Haden decision. Also, please see the March 31, 2001 Charleston Gazette for Randy Boyd's OpEd piece on the Dirty Water Coalition!!

 

Degradation - Industry calling shots

From The Charleston Gazette.

Friday April 06, 2001; 12:04 AM

 

EVERY once in a while, something will happen that demonstrates the sickening sway industry holds over the state Legislature.

Read the complete story online at

http://www.wvgazette.com/display_story.php3?sid=2001040611


 

Watershed Permit Workshops

Are you concerned about pollution being discharged to your local rivers from industries and wastewater treatment plants? Would you like to learn how to make your voice heard when permitting decisions are made?

The West Virginia Rivers Coalition's Permit Analysis Program is sponsoring a series of workshops that will help you learn about and comment on water pollution discharge permits in your watershed.

The first two workshops will be held in Charleston on April 28, 2001 and in Hedgesville on May 19, 2001. Workshops will also be scheduled for other locations around West Virginia. Please contact Evan Hansen to arrange a workshop in your area.

Permits regulate the amount of pollution that industrial and municipal facilities can discharge to rivers and lakes. Your participation in the permitting process is essential to ensure that permits account for local concerns and strictly adhere to the Clean Water Act.

Workshops will include an overview of the Clean Water Act and the agencies that play a role in the permitting process. They will also introduce several permits in your local watershed and will provide instructions for assessing permits and participating in the permitting process.

Evan Hansen, Permit Analysis Program Director, is the workshop leader. For the last year, Evan has researched WV's permits and worked with watershed organizations to promote involvement in the permitting process.

The workshops are free, with lunch included. Registration is encouraged, but not required. Please contact Evan Hansen at ehansen@downstreamstrategies.com or 304-291-8205, or contact West Virginia Rivers Coalition at 304-637-7201 for more information.

 

Voices From the Mountains

by Rick Eades

What can you do when you can't come to the Capitol? Two prime examples of affecting legislation from afar stand out this year.

Exceptional work from the Eastern Panhandle

Clint Hogbin has mastered long-distance lobbying, and worked relentlessly to move a tougher litter law this session. Clint quietly, effectively helped at every stage, in the House and Senate, building on long-term, respectful relationships with key legislators.

Clint's electronic communications were timely and accurate, and helped merge the interests of Delegate Mahan's House bill and Senator Unger's companion bill. This is nothing new for Clint. Last year he was the key lobbyist on the Farmland Preservation Act.

PAN issues wake up call

Randy Boyd and the Plateau Action Network (PAN) were dismayed that tourism would join forces with coal, oil and gas, and timbering interests on the Dirty Water Bill. Randy and Gene Kistler directed their concerns to local tourism leaders in private meetings.

When PAN was not satisfied, Randy, with help from Tony Jenkins, drafted a point-blank editorial column that the Charleston Gazette printed questioning the sanity of tourism facilitating stream degradation by industrial heavyweights.

Tourism leaders pulled out of the Dirty Water coalition, weakening that unholy alliance. PAN, Gene, Randy, and Tony did what the lobby team couldn't do alone. Randy has been active for years, as a driving force for air quality improvements in schools and stronger surface mine regulation. Hats off to Fayette County's voice of reason.

 

Sculpture Tickets Still Available

Speaking of the last night of the session -- that's also the night of the WVEC's raffle drawing for the Mark Blumenstein sculpture that you've heard so much about this session (see sculpture).

You can still get tickets for this sculpture and you need not be present at the End of the Session party drawing to win.

To get your tickets, send $5 a ticket to WVEC, 1324 Virginia St., East, Charleston, WV 25301 and we'll mail you back your ticket stub. Or call us at 346-5905. Thanks to all of you who have bought a ticket. This has been a successful fundraising effort for the Council and all proceeds go to the Lobby Team. But time's running out -- buy your tickets today and win this great sculpture on April 14!

 

One Final Shameless Plea

by Donald S. Garvin, Jr., WVEC President

This is the last regular issue of the Update that you will receive, and it would be negligent of me not to get down on my knees one last time and ask for your financial support for the WVEC lobby team.

As things stand right now, WVEC will be down to a bare bones budget for the rest of the year if we do not receive additional financial support from you, our members. Without further contributions we may be unable to give lobby team members an extra check to cover some of their travel and lodging expenses.

So dig down deep into your pockets, if you can. There's even time left to buy more raffle tickets for the Mark Blumenstein sculpture. It's been a tough and demanding session for the lobby team, and they will appreciate anything you can contribute.

It would also be negligent of me not to thank those of you who have already given so generously. Consider yourself thanked from the bottoms of our hearts. You know who you are.

Gracias, Gracias

by Linda Mallet

It's hard to believe that this is the last Legislative Update for this session! It seems like just yesterday that I was writing to you, introducing the lobby team. Well, the time is here to thank everyone that has, once again, worked together to watch what was happening at the Capitol and report it all to you.

The WVEC lobbying effort would be impossible without the financial and in-kind support of the Council's member organizations and others such as the Plateau Action Network, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, the WV Highlands Conservancy, Trout Unlimited, WV Citizen Action Group, WV Rivers Coalition, Friends of the Cheat and the Coalition for Responsible Logging.

The newsletter has gotten to you thanks to many dedicated volunteers who have showed up on Friday afternoons to fold and staple. They include Greg Carroll, Terri Marion, Susan Hayden, Mary Ellen O'Farrell, Mary Wildfire, Sheila McEntee, Pat Barker, Hal Weber, Ellen Mills-Pauley, and Terry Messinger.

Because of Chris Hogbin and Lynn Degen, you've been able to read us on-line and on the website. Thanks to them for taking time out of their Friday nights to work in cyberspace.

Special thanks go to Michelle Hogan, Julie Archer and Norm Steenstra III for helping me by proofreading, submitting articles, assembling the newsletter and being there for unpredicted emergencies. And to Denise Poole for managing the database in a transition year when folks were making the switch to e-mail and then sometimes back again.

Thanks also to the lobby team and the writing dynamic duo of Don Garvin and Nathan Fetty, as well as Norm Steenstra, Rick Eades, Gary Zuckett, Frank Young, Kathy Judge, Clint Hogbin, Jim Kotcon, Mike Withers, and Denise Poole.

I want to especially thank Conni McMorris who, for all eight weeks of the session, coordinated our volunteers, made the 4,000 copies, made sure we had supplies, stuck on the stamps and labels, sized the cartoons and provided calm and reassurance to a sometimes frantic editor. She has made my job so much smoother I can't even give her contribution the justice it deserves.

And, of course, thanks to all of you, who have made it all possible through your generous donations, membership renewals and raffle ticket purchases. We manage to go head-to-head with the other guys on an eight-week budget that equals what they probably spend in a day or two. Thanks for making it all possible!

 

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