By Frank Young
The WV Environmental Council (E-Council) is the lobbying group for the greater community of both large and small West Virginia environmental organizations. Most of WV E-Council’s budget comes from its member groups’ financial support and is used to pay lobbyists to support E-Council’s legislative priorities.
Accordingly, every summer the E-Council surveys its member organizations (which include West Virginia Highlands Conservancy) and other supporters to determine their highest priority environmental issues. Then, at its annual fall membership meeting, (usually in October) the E-Council collates by indicated importance and prioritizes the many lobbying items suggested into a manageable environmental lobbying agenda.
In October and November E-Council recruits and assembles a lobby team- usually of three or four people- who start working in December to be effective environmental advocates when the legislature convenes in January.
The survey for legislative priorities is done electronically via a questionnaire submitted to member group leaders (i.e. – WVHC President Larry Thomas). In turn, those group leaders submit the questionnaire to their Board of Directors for input on preferred priority legislative items, which the group leader then assembles and reports back to the WV E-Council.
The questionnaire asks for both multiple choice and narrative replies relating to priority environmental issue items and other information such as kinds of lobbying support a member group or other E-Council supporter can offer toward advancing their particular high priority environmental lobbying issues. The 2020 priorities survey includes such questions as:
- What issues will you prioritize this legislative session (check all that apply)?Water Quality (Discharges, Pollutants, Category A), Coal (MTR, Power Plant Closure, Pollution), Oil & Gas (Forced Pooling, Pollution), Petrochemical/Plastics (Appalachian Storage and Trading Hub), Pipelines, Renewables (PPAs, Net Metering), Energy Efficiency (LEEP), Public Lands (Conservation, Timbering), Climate Change (Carbon Tax, Emissions Reduction), Clean Elections (Money in Politics), Legal Rights for Nature
- What are other issues you would like to have legislative support for or against? (requires written answers)
- Do you have a specific piece of legislation you are working on or would like to see introduced or opposed? If yes, please explain. (requires written answer)
- Would you like the WVEC lobby team to prioritize your issue? If so, which one?
- What resources can you contribute on these issues during the legislative session? (choose all that apply)- In-person Volunteer Time at Capitol, In-district Volunteer Time, Fact Sheets/White Papers, Grassroots Mobilization, OpEd or LTE Availability, Expert Testimony, Emailing delegates and senators
- Are you or your organization able to financially support the WVEC’s legislative efforts?
As you can see, the questionnaire is designed to not only solicit ideas for environmental lobbying, but to indicate to the respondent that, while ideas are important, the E-Council lobby team needs not only fiscal support, but expert testimony at legislative hearings, volunteer lobbyists, OpEds and Letters to the Editor, and pressure from voters on their Senators and Delegates so that those legislators know that this or that is important to their people “back home”.
Look for more information about WV E-Council legislative lobby activities in coming issues of The Highlands Voice.The WV E-Council and its staff and volunteers work 12 months a year to be ready for the regular legislative session that runs only 60 days. While our legislative agenda is determined in a process open to WVEC members and supporters, for strategic reasons we do not reveal our complete regular legislative session lobbying priorities until late in the calendar year. And of course we never lose sight of the political reality that our biggest lobbying campaigns are almost always in response to “ambush” legislation and rule-making put forth on short notice- by either industry initiatives or regulatory agencies- often after the legislature is well into its 60 day session. Advocating for sane environmental public policies is a never ending endeavor.