2020 Legislative Session Looming

By the West Virginia Environmental Council legislative committee 

            Death, taxes and the West Virginia Legislature are inevitable in the mountain state of West Virginia.  

            And the WV legislature will convene again the second week of January.  And so the West Virginia Environmental Council (WVEC)- of which WV Highlands Conservancy is a supporting member- is engaging in its final flurry of setting legislative priorities for the coming year. 

            There are priority issues for which bills are already or soon will be written for pro-active lobbying by WVEC and its allied lobbyists.  These include bills designed to improve water quality, to allow household level retail Power Purchase Agreements (see related article on page 6=7), “Clean Elections” and anti-corruption legislation, and the Modern Jobs Act allowing strip-mined lands to be used for renewable energy generation. 

            Other issues for which legislative bills might or might not be ready by January but for which we are on alert for “bad” legislation include pipeline issues, public lands protections (including no logging in state parks), more funding and staff for WV Department of Environmental Protection, petro-chemicals / plastics, coal oil and gas related issues (including severance taxes), among others.

            As most Highlands Voice readers know, developing legislative priorities has been an annual exercise for WV Environmental Council for three decades.  This exercise includes surveying environmental groups and their members for their current environmental issues of most concern.  And each year there are several “overlapping” issues from previous years because many of the “old” issues are still around. 

            But this year a new “local” issue has leaped forth- climate change.  Specifically, there is demand for “Climate Impact Analysis on all new permitting”.  Since this is a “new” issue for WV Environmental Council, we are gradually working it into the mix of priorities- which consists partly of ongoing assessments of what is and is not doable legislatively. 

            Ironically, at its most recent board of directors meeting, WV Highlands Conservancy president Larry Thomas officially recognized a Climate Change committee, and appointed long time Conservancy member Perry Bryant as chair of that new committee.  That committee is currently developing a first official WVHC public statement on Climate Change issues. 

            Developing lobbying priorities is a year-round activity.  New issues come up nearly every month.  Just recently we learned of likely upcoming bills to expand Off Road Vehicle (ORV) trails- perhaps even onto public lands. Currently most “official” ORV trails (such as the Hatfield-McCoy Trail) are on former mining sites and other private lands.  Efforts to expand ORV trails onto public lands will be controversial among the general public.    

            So stay tuned.  The 2020 show is about to begin.