Environmental Council at the State Legislature

By Frank Young

The West Virginia state legislature convened its 60 day regular session on January 9th.   And so the WV Environmental Council (WVEC) is trudging along in its 29thyear of lobbying the legislature in an effort to bring sensible environmental legislation to the table- and hopefully to the governor’s desk for a signature of approval. WV Highlands Conservancy continues to be a significant fiscal contributor in support of the WVEC lobbying campaign.

WVEC started setting its 2019 legislative agenda back in August by surveying its members (including WV Highlands Conservancy) and supporters for their highest priority environmental lobbying issues for 2019.

Those priorities include:

  1. Water protection including updating state water quality standards with EPA recommended human health criteria;
  2. Advance renewable energy options including Power Purchase Agreements (PPA);
  3. Protecting public lands, including prohibiting commercial logging in State Parks to preserve the integrity and intent of State Parks;
  4. Promote the WV Future Fund; ensure that extractive industries pay severance tax into the fund;
  5. Election law updates: working with the WV Clean Elections Coalition and others. It is often suggested that nothing much will change until we change the way election campaigns for public office are financed;
  6. Oil and gas issues including the Appalachian Storage Trading Hub, orphaned wells, and health study of fracking regions.

Plus, our lobbyists have been making the rounds on the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection rules bills since those are being run through the Senate early in the session.

And WVEC lobbyists are always on the lookout for all manner of “bad” bills- usually offered by energy industry and manufacturing industry lobbyists- that would further degrade the environmental quality of West Virginia streams, air and land.

A bit of good news as it relates to our priorities: we have every reason to believe that the terrible idea of logging in state parks is NOT something we are going to be dealing with this session. Word in the halls is that the Governor wants nothing to do with it, Department of Natural Resources doesn’t want to bring it back, and likewise for legislators. We’ll let you know if that changes!

The issues of most current interest (and this changes almost daily) to our lobbyists are listed in the weekly WVEC Legislative Update. You can see the more current edition of the Update at www.wvecouncil.org. But those issues change almost daily. So that list will be updated every Friday evening.  And there will be a 1 page handout of immediate issues for lobbying at the WV Environmental Council table on E-day (environmental lobby day, February 7th) at the Capitol rotunda. Parking there is at a premium. But there is free parking at Laidley Field on Elizabeth Street near the Interstate (3 blocks from the Capitol). And there is free shuttle bus service from there to the door of the Capitol building. Also FYI, there is a restaurant in the basement of the Capitol.

You can sign up for the weekly Legislative Update and almost daily alerts (during the legislation session) by a simple request to info@wvecouncil.org.

Meet our lobbyists:

Karan Irelandis back for her second year as the WVEC lobby team coordinator. Prior to her work for the Environmental Council, Karan was the executive director of WV Solar United Neighbors, a non-profit working to advance the deployment of solar energy in West Virginia. Karan worked for West Virginia Citizen Action Group where she was the lead on projects related to safe drinking water. She was one of the original organizers of the local citizen response to the 2014 Elk River Chemical Leak and resulting water crisis, and is a steering committee member of Advocates for a Safe Water System. Karan just finished a term as a member of the Charleston City Council, having been elected to an at-large seat in May of 2015. She also serves as a member of the Charleston Urban Renewal Authority’s board of commissioners.

Kayla Youngis a new part of the E-Council lobbying team. Kayla is a community organizer with Boss Babes WV, an organization working for women’s empowerment and gender equity. She runs the Eggs Will Roll food truck and co-hosts the I Reckon Podcast. She graduated from West Virginia University in 2009 with degrees in Political Science, Communication Studies, and Public Relations. Kayla has worked on municipal, state, and federal campaigns.

Ben Kessleris a recent graduate from West Virginia University and part of the new lobbying team. As a student, he took on the Office of Sustainability as WVU’s Sierra Student Coalition Conservation Campaign Coordinator to cultivate development of Greenhouse Gas Inventory and a 50kw Solar Pilot Program. Ben also has years of experience working political campaigns including local, state, and national candidates. Ben brings his technical skills of political theory and regulations combined with his skills from advocacy and policy analysis, as well as scientific knowledge on geological and geographical processes and applications. Working with multiple NGOs and political campaigns, he has developed the means to effectively reach people across the aisle, recruit advisors and supporters, and train volunteers on advocacy and grassroots campaigning.

Lobby team coordinator Karan Ireland tells us, “It’s great to be back under the dome–except there is no dome- at least not one we can see from inside the building. There is no standing around the well, eavesdropping on conversations between committee meetings this year, as the dome and rotunda undergo repairs. But, your new lobby team is carving out our space as we work in pursuit of the 2019 WVEC legislative priorities.”