Even if 2021 seems like a long way off, it is time to start planning for the 2021 session of the West Virginia Legislature. As usual, we can count on a legislative session that is at times dull, at times chaotic, at times satisfying, and at times frustrating.
The first step comes as the West Virginia Environmental Council settles upon its legislative priorities for the coming session. The Environmental Council is made up of several groups, including the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy. While the groups share the same general vision of a safe and livable environment for West Virginia, there is the same diversity of opinion that one would expect in any diverse group.
Any diversity of opinion is resolved through a process that begins with each group submitting its ideas for legislative action. This is going on right now. The West Virginia Highlands Conservancy is getting together its ideas on what things it believes should be the legislative priorities.
The leaders of the Environmental Council (representatives from member groups) will consider the ideas submitted and come up with a list of issues that the lobby team will work on. The makeup of the lobby team is different each year, depending upon the availability of resources and personnel. If past practices are a guide, there will be a lobbying coordinator who does much of the lobbying along with several volunteers who lobby as time and enthusiasm allow.
We are so early in the process that right now there is no list of issues. We can count on the return of some old favorites such as a fight over Water Quality Standards. These are the limits on how much pollution West Virginia will allow in its rivers and streams. Someone is always trying to loosen the requirements. The arguments can get technical and arcane but it still comes down to how clean our water will be, a core value for most of the groups involved.
Last year there was progress toward encouraging renewable energy in West Virginia and the long, slow slog toward finally dealing with abandoned gas wells. There may be attempts to build on the progress. It may be something completely different.
No matter what the 2021 Legislature brings, it is time to haul the sausage grinder out of the basement, dust it off, and get ready. It will be here before we know it.