By Frank Young
The 2021 legislative session is just around the corner, and we have our work cut out for us. The West Virginia Environmental Council (WVEC)–of which WV Highlands Conservancy is a several decades long member and fiscal supporter– is the lobbying arm of the West Virginia environmental advocacy community.
Starting February 10th, we will be closely but “virtually” watching and acting upon the relevant environmental bills that run through the WV legislature. Our own legislative priorities for this session will focus on the following priorities developed with our legislative allies:
- Water quality standards rule and the Safe Drinking Water bill
- Climate change, including Power Purchase Agreements legislation (see the story on p. 4)
- Expansion of recycling, including styrofoam
- Continuation of funding for Department of Environmental Protection inspectors in the state budget
- Resolution to study energy use in state buildings
- Just Transition bill- The purpose of this bill is to assist areas of the state where the coal industry has receded to rebuild their economies by diversifying the economic base of those areas
- Clean elections- changing the political rules that favor special interests and giving regular West Virginians an equal voice in our government, and disclosure of dark money political expenditures
We also expect to use a good deal of our resources to educate the large number of newly elected legislators, especially in the House of Delegates, and to provide fact sheets and grassroots outreach on potentially harmful legislation as well as proactive bills.
As always, this will be a team effort and we need all hands on deck. WVEC will be sending out weekly legislative updates. We will also send more frequent action alerts as they become relevant.
We expect things to be much different this year. Since the capitol building is closed to the public, calling and emailing your legislators will be the best (only?) way to reach them this session. If you are not already on WVEC’s Green Legislative Update list, just ask to be by sending a one sentence request and your e-mail address to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Access to the Capitol building will be limited and the process for posting agendas and confirming and holding public hearings is still unclear. So it will be extremely important to keep a close eye on legislation and to reach out to legislators and voice your opinions. If you or your organization are able to contribute to our efforts with fact sheets, relevant literature, outreach or with a donation, we would greatly appreciate it! You can donate to support WVEC’s lobbying work by clicking the “Donate” button at www.wvecouncil.org.
The WVEC is reaching out to legislators and working with our coalition partners. All events in the rotunda are cancelled this year, so our annual E-Day will be a virtual event on Wednesday, March 10. If you are part of an organization that would like to be involved, please e-mail Lframe@gmail.com. Last year we had over 20 groups travel to Charleston and we hope you can join us virtually this year!