West Virginia Environmental Council Developing 2019 Legislative Priorities

By Frank Young

At its annual fall meeting, the West Virginia Environmental Council (WVEC) Board of Directors outlined its first draft of legislative priorities for the 2019 regular session of the West Virginia Legislature.  This was done after several weeks of surveys to its member organizations for their assessments of what changes in state environmental laws and regulations are most needed and perhaps achievable.

West Virginia Environmental Council (WVEC) is a coalition of environmental organizations whose mission it is to facilitate communication and cooperation among citizens in promoting environmental protection in West Virginia, to assist in organizing grass-roots groups and facilitating interaction among established environmental organizations, and to correspond with government agencies involved in the management of West Virginia’s environment.

The initial listing of WVEC 2019 legislative priorities includes:

  • Encouraging renewable energy, including support for a bill written by Energy Efficient WV to allow “power purchase agreements” between private party property owners or occupiers (i.e.- households) and owners/operators of rooftop solar collectors.
  • Water protection measures that would include updating state water quality standards to EPA-recommended human health criteria.
  • Protecting public lands, including preserving state parks from commercial logging to preserve the integrity and original intent of state parks.
  • Promote the WV Future Fund, including ensuring that extractive industries pay severance tax into the fund. The West Virginia Future Fund is a permanent State of West Virginia trust fund. It was established in 2014 via the passage of legislation to make the fund perpetually protected under West Virginia law.

It is also developing that WVEC lobbyists will likely join with WV Clean Elections Coalition lobbyists in support of the Fair and Clean Elections concept for financing election campaigns.  The coalition has long supported public financing for state legislative races, and other public policies aimed at increasing accountability and transparency in elections, including requiring full disclosure of independent expenditures and electioneering communications, and prohibiting corporate campaign spending.

Some of us who have been in the environmental lobbying business for many decades consider the system of environmental scofflaws’ and polluters’ campaign contributions to legislators in exchange for subsequent legislative favors to those very contributors as nothing short of official corruption- however sanctioned by election law (laws fashioned and defended by those same office holders) the system is.  Sometimes it seems that the only way to change unjust laws is to change the way election campaigns for public officials are financed.