Water Policy News: Fourth Update of the 2023 Session
Drinking Water Protection Bill Making Progress
This week, as we cross the halfway point of the regular session, our #1 policy priority was on the move in both the Senate and the House. On Monday, the PFAS Protection Act passed unanimously out of the Senate Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee. That committee substituted in the language from HB 3189, so that both versions of the PFAS Protection Act – the committee substitute for SB 485 and HB 3189 – more closely mirror each other. This is a good indication that the bill is on a strong track to passage with agreed to language between the House and Senate. Now the Senate version sits in the Senate Finance Committee for consideration.
Then on Thursday, the House Energy & Manufacturing Committee passed out the PFAS Protection Act with some technical clean-up of the language in HB 3189. We’re grateful to lead sponsor Delegate Riley, and clean water champion Delegate Hansen for all of their hard work on drafting this important piece of legislation. Check out reporting from yesterday’s committee meeting here and here. Now the House version moves on to the House Judiciary Committee.
Watch the video above to hear from Angie Rosser and Delegate Evan Hansen after this week’s House Energy and Manufacturing Committee meeting.
The progress this week shows that all of your contacts are working! Thank you for taking action to make your voice heard, we can tell you it’s making a difference. We’ll certainly need you to keep it up as one of these bills must complete the entire legislative process in the next 29 days. To help folks understand the need and importance of this legislation, check out our information packet here.
Call to Action: Let’s keep the momentum going! Contact members of the House Judiciary Committee and ask for their support of the PFAS Protection Act.
Keeping an Eye on Allowing Off-Road Vehicles on State Public Lands
We are keeping a close eye on the Senate Outdoor Recreation Committee, watching for SB 468 or other bills to come up that would open up public lands to off-road vehicle use. There was no such action from the committee this week, which could be an indication that your emails and calls are getting through loud and clear. It was just last week that the committee considered a surprise substitute bill that would have authorized the development of ATV/ORV trail systems in any and all of our state forests.
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. If you haven’t already sent a message to the members of the Outdoor Recreation Committee, please let them know that off-road vehicles don’t belong on our public lands!
Public Land Advocates at the Capitol
Public lands advocates recently met with the chair of the new Senate Outdoors Recreation Committee, Senator Mark Maynard, to learn about the new committee and share concerns about preserving the tradition of non-motorized recreation on state lands and assuring adequate funding for our state public lands. They also left information about public lands for all Senators on the Outdoor Recreation Committee. Check out this video to see citizen advocacy for public lands in action!
Pictured left to right: WV Rivers Public Lands Coordinator Mike Jones, WV Highlands Conservancy Board Member Luanne McGovern, WV Rivers Executive Director Angie Rosser, and Sierra Club Member Melissa Waggy making the rounds to Senate offices.
Bills to Fund More Oil & Gas Inspectors are in the Hands of the Finance Committees
As reported in last week’s update, 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, 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 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.
Videos on PFAS in WV Drinking Water Supplies
Video: PFAS in Drinking Water Supplies
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.
Video: Eastern Panhandle PFAS Forum
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 & Learn Webinars Scheduled
This month, we’ve scheduled 30-minute Lunch & Learn webinars to share information about important policies where your voice matters. Webinar registrants will receive a recording of the webinar. Hope to see you on Zoom!
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.
We encourage you attend and raise your voice, and don’t forget to say “hi” to WV Rivers team members while you’re there!