By Luanne McGovern, WVHC Legislative Committee Chair
The 87th West Virginia Legislature started their 60-day session on January 10, 2024. So far, almost 2,000 bills have been introduced, outpacing last year’s count. The West Virginia Highlands Conservancy has been monitoring a number of bills, in conjunction with our partners at the West Virginia Environmental Council. Here is an update on our main priorities for 2024:
Net Metering: to protect and preserve long-standing net metering rules to ensure all solar users are entitled to the existing fair market retail rate. The WV Public Service Commission held a public hearing on January 22, 2024, to allow public comment on Mon Power and Potomac Edison’s proposal to drastically reduce the amount that solar producers are paid for the power they generate. Dozens of speakers from across the state blasted the unfairness of the proposal and how it could cripple the nascent WV solar industry. The Public Service Commission has not yet ruled on the case and no legislation has been introduced. To stay updated, visit: https://www.energyfreedomwv.org/net-metering
Orphaned Gas Well Responsibility: to require bonds to be set before drilling begins to cover plugging costs for gas wells that are abandoned or orphaned. Senate Bill 532 – The Orphan Oil and Gas Well Prevention Act of 2024 – was introduced by Senators Smith, Caputo, Stover and Hamilton. We are hoping that the bill will quickly move to Senator Smith’s Energy Committee in the coming days. You can reach out to these Senators and let them know you want more industry responsibility to prevent orphaned wells in our state.
Community Solar: to promote access to affordable renewable energy through a solar facility subscription service. House Bill 4834 – Establishing a community solar program for subscribers to gain credits against their utility bills – has been introduced by Delegates Hansen and Young. A companion bill is being drafted in the Senate and hopes are high that momentum can be established for passage this session.
Public Lands: Several bills are under consideration in the Senate that impact public lands, and recognize the value that non-motorized recreation brings to the state.
- Senate Bill 196 – WV Rail Trails Program
- Senate Bill 425 – WV Public Waterway Access Act
- Senate Bill 426 – WV Recreational Trails Development Act
There are two troubling bills under consideration:
Senate Bill 171 – Prohibiting county commissions from adopting authorization that exceeds state law regarding agriculture operations. This bill would centralize power at the state level and eliminate local government’s ability to protect residents, businesses, and farmers. Last year’s success at stopping the Hardy County log fumigation project would have been invalidated by this bill. You can sign the petition against this bill here.
HB5018 – To provide for Department of Environmental Protection oversight and authority governing community air monitoring programs. This dangerous bill would tell community members that their monitoring efforts and their interest in being an ally in ensuring a healthy environment aren’t worthy. If they are successful with air monitoring, they may come after our water monitoring programs. We have issued an Action Alert on this bill and hope to get it stopped in Committee.