Water Policy News: Third Update of the 2023 Session

Easy Action for Clean Water

Each week of the legislative session, we share an easy action for clean water, it only takes a few minutes and it is the most urgent call to action.

Easy Action: Contact members of the House Energy and Manufacturing Committee – Ask them to advance the PFAS Protection Act (West Virginia Residents Only).

Drinking Water Protection Bill in House Committee

This week, our #1 policy priority was introduced to the House and is currently in the Energy and Manufacturing Committee. The bill, the PFAS Protection Act, HB 3189, is similar to the Senate version, SB 485, but has slight differences.

Call to Action: reach out to members of the House Energy and Manufacturing committee. Let them you you support the PFAS Protection ActWe’ve set-up an action page for you to send messages to all of the members of the committee.

Senate Committee Hears Testimony on Impact of Public Lands Bill to Allow Off-Road Vehicles on State Public Lands

Five Senators on the Outdoor Recreation Committee kept off-road vehicles out of West Virginia’s State Forests – at least for now.

A bill, SB 468, was filled last week to make Cabwaylingo State Forest into a permanent forest ATV trail system.

The Outdoor Recreation Committee drafted a “substitute bill,” to replace the original SB 468 that went even further in allowing off-roading on our state lands.

On Wednesday, February 1, the committee held a hearing on the substitute bill, where WV Rivers executive director Angie Rosser testified. Read coverage of the hearing in the Charleston Gazette-Mail and watch a recording here.

The committee substitute bill authorized allowing all types of off-road vehicles in all of WV State Forests. Three unelected agency officials would make these decisions without public input or legislative review. The motion to adopt the substitute bill failed on a tie 5-5 vote, but the committee could vote to reconsider the bill next week.

Join us in thanking the 5 Senators that stood up for our public lands! Call or email them (or both!) to say thank you for keeping off-road vehicles out of our public lands.

  • Mike Caputo mike.caputo@wvsenate.gov; (304) 357-7961
  • Vince Deeds vince.deeds@wvsenate.gov; (304) 357-7959
  • Patrick S. Martin patrick.martin@wvsenate.gov; (304) 357-7845
  • Randy E. Smith randy.smith@wvsenate.gov; (304) 357-7995
  • David Stover david.stover@wvsenate.gov; (304) 357-7807

Motorized vehicle use on trails cause soil and habitat degradation, damage water quality, disturb the unique values our public lands preserve, and impact hunting and fishing. We expect another hearing on SB 468 in Senate Outdoor Recreation Committee – probably next Wednesday.

Call to Action: send a message to members of the Outdoor Recreation Committee and let them know that off-road vehicles don’t belong on our public lands!

Bills to Fund More Oil & Gas Inspectors on the Move

We saw action on 3 bills this week related to another legislative priority – ensuring that the WV Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has increased and stable funding to provide adequate oversight of the oil and gas industry. DEP currently only has 10 inspectors overseeing approximately 75,000 wells and over 20,000 tanks, and legislators seem to agree that is woefully inadequate. Read our fact sheet.

HB 3110 and SB 448, which are similar bills, advanced out of the House Energy & Manufacturing Committee, and Senate Energy, Industry & Mining Committee respectively. They redirect a small portion of the oil and gas severance tax to DEP and establish new fees that, together, are anticipated to support an additional 10 inspectors – which we say, still isn’t nearly enough! Even with that increase, we would be only at half the staffing that PA and OH support per well in their states. WV would need to staff around 40 inspectors to be in line with neighboring states’ oversight capacity.

SB 13 also passed out of Senate Energy, Industry & Mining Committee this week. It would establish an annual oversight fee of $100 for wells that produce over 10,000 cubic feet of gas per day. Some wells in our state are producing gas worth over a million dollars per year, yet would still only have to pay $100 in an oversight fee. This bill would still only expect to add around 10 inspectors.

All of these bills are in now in their respective Finance Committees. Please contact members of those committees and tell them WV needs to be able to staff at least 40 oil and gas inspectors to provide adequate oversight.

Lunch and Learn Webinars

Looking for information on what PFAS are? Where they are found in our drinking water supplies? And what the PFAS Protection Act does? This is the webinar for you! This 30-minute webinar provides are great overview of PFAS in West Virginia.

In this 1 hour and 20 minute recording of a live meeting held at the Byrd Center in Shepherdstown on January 25, you’ll hear from expert panelists on the problem of PFAS in water supplies from a state and federal prospective.

Lunch and Learn Webinars

Over the next month, we’ve scheduled 30-minute Lunch & Learn webinars to share information about important policies where your voice matters. Webinar registrants will received a recording of the webinar. Hope to see you on Zoom!

February 9 at 12:00pm: Methane, Climate Change, and an Opportunity to Comment on Proposed EPA Regulations. Learn about a proposed EPA rule to limit methane pollution and how you can comment. Register for the webinar.

February 16 at 12:00pm: Four Facts and Three Concerns about YOUR West Virginia Public Lands. Join us for a conversation about the local, state, and national lands we West Virginians own or manage. Register for the webinar.

February 23 at 12:00pm: What is Blue Hydrogen? Before West Virginia volunteers to be the next “hydrogen hub,” we need to learn about what Blue Hydrogen is and its potential impacts to our communities. Register for the webinar.

Lobby Days at the Capitol

Citizen lobby days at the West Virginia Capitol are a great way for you to meet fellow advocates, learn about policies legislators are considering, and connect with organizations that share your values. Say “hi” to WV Rivers team members at the following citizen lobby days!

February 15: Black Policy Breakfast and Day of Action. Download a copy of the policy agenda.

February 28: Environment Day at the Capitol. Read about the legislative priorities.

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