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WVEC Seeks to Increase Citizen Response
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by Chuck Wyrostok and Don Garvin | 2007

The Chapter helps pay for the E-Council lobby team, so their legislative victories are OUR legislative victories. Read On!

The Regular Session of the 78th WV Legislature has just ended and due in large part to the efforts of West Virginia Environmental Council’s lobby team, there were significant victories. A lot of citizen support for our lobby team came from folks like you who contacted their legislators after seeing one of WVEC’s Action Alerts. The premise here, of course, is that most legislators respond to constituents from their home district. Additionally, since your organization may be contributing financially to the operation of our lobby team each year, when you take action, you are getting better mileage out of the money your organization is investing in WVEC. And speaking of money, if your organization has not yet contributed to this year’s WVEC lobby team effort, your financial support is still needed and would be greatly appreciated.

To subscribe to WVEC’s email list go to www.wvecouncil.org/take_action/ index.html. You’ll receive timely Action Alerts and G.R.E.E.N. Legislative Updates (weekly during the Regular Session) and G.R.E.E.N. newsletters several times throughout the year. This year’s lobby team, led by Don Garvin, substantially benefited from increased citizen response and you can help build this response by signing up.

Here’s a partial rundown of how the environment fared in Charleston this session:

The Legislature passed SCR 15, a requiring the Department of Environmental Protection and the Bureau of Public Health to study the contents of coal slurry, the impacts on groundwater from disposing of it by injection into abandoned coal mine seams, and to assess any potential impacts to the health of coalfield residents. This is a great outcome for an issue that WVEC and the Sludge Safety Project guided through several months of Interim Committee meetings.

The Legislature also passed: SB 337, DEP’s greenhouse gas inventory bill; SB 460, a bill that provides further protections in State Forests from oil and gas drilling operations; SB 177, that creates a Division of Energy for developing a comprehensive energy plan for WV; and HCR 48 that authorizes an Interim Study on funding for land conservation in the state.

WVEC, along with activists from the early “Garbage Wars” days and WV Citizen Action Group, helped kill two terrible solid waste bills: SB 629 that would have authorized a huge mega-landfill in McDowell County; and SB 701 that would have abolished the state Solid Waste Management Board and county Solid Waste Control Authorities, and consolidated that control of solid waste management into the hands of the DEP.

Perhaps the most controversial environmental issue of the legislative session – how many West Virginia rivers and streams would be placed on two protective stream lists – is still up in the air.

The controversy revolved around two sets of rules proposed by DEP that would have significantly impacted clean water – for the better – in West Virginia if enacted by the Legislature. Both these rules were strongly opposed by a wall of lobbyists from the usual polluting industries. Therefore, facing the very real possibility that the protective stream lists contained in the rules would be gutted by amendment, Legislative leadership decided not to take formal action on them.

So as it now stands, DEP maintains that because they filed the rules with the Secretary of State’s office, the rules go into effect as proposed because the Legislature chose not to act on them. Industry lobbyists are already threatening to take DEP to court over this. Obviously, it may be quite some time before we finally know just how many streams will be included for protection on the two stream lists. And that number may be decided by the courts, not by the Legislature.

A more detailed summary of actions affecting the environment at the Legislature this session is available in our Legislative Wrap-Up, which you can access at our web site, www.wvecouncil.org .

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