As The Highlands Voice goes to press the West Virginia Legislature is going into its final week. Committees are committeeing, deals are being cut, politics is being played, etc. etc. Nobody knows how things are going to turn out. Much of what is known now will change several times by the end. Next month, when the dust has settled, we will have a recap.
In spite of these limitations, there are a few things that it is possible to report on.
Above Ground Storage Tanks
There was the bill that would exempt above ground storage tanks. Right now, storage tanks that are directly upstream from public drinking water intakes or where a released contaminant will reach the intake within five hours must meet the standards and oversight of the Aboveground Storage Tank Act. There was a proposal (House Bill 4079) that would exempt those tanks.
That proposal did not make much progress, or at least not enough progress to have much chance of passing. Although nothing is ever certain, it appears that the proposal will not pass and the tanks will remain regulated.
There were two initiatives to encourage the use of solar power: the Modern Jobs Act and the bill allowing Power Purchase Agreements.
The Modern Jobs Act would have encouraged solar facilities by removing them from the control of the Public Service Commission. Under present law, someone who wished to produce and sell electricity would be classified as a public utility, subject to the Public Service Commission. Under the Modern Jobs Act (House Bill 4172), someone could build a solar farm on an old strip mine and sell the electricity to a large industrial user free of the control of the Public Service Commission.
Fairly early in the session idea behind the Modern Jobs Act morphed into a proposal that would have allowed public utilities to build a defined amount of solar powered capacity and be regulated by the Public Service Commission. This proposal had the support of the West Virginia Department of Commerce; it thought it would be easier to recruit some businesses to West Virginia if we could offer them a renewable energy option.
The second initiative would have allowed Power Purchase Agreements. This bill would allow a company to install renewable energy facilities on a small scale (such as a single building) without being regulated by the Public Service Commission.
Early in the session it looked as if the son (or nephew, or second cousin) of Modern Jobs Act would ride administration support to passage; it also looked as if the Power Purchase Agreements bill quietly wither and die. Now, both have disappeared into the Mystery Hole that is the West Virginia Legislature. There are rumors that one is being held hostage in exchange for the other, it will probably be up in the air until the last minute.
There was a bill which aimed to identify and reduce exposure to a class of chemical toxins known as polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. These substances are “forever chemicals” and accumulate in the environment. A main source of exposure to PFAS is through contaminated drinking water.
That bill did not pass but there was still progress. There is a Resolution that would accomplish some of the things that the bill would have. It would require the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection and the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources to sample untreated, water supplies at locations across the state for the presence of toxic chemicals. The data from the study will help regulatory agencies better protect public health and ensure the water we drink is safe.
So, that’s it for now. There is still plenty going on’ we will see what happens.