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2012: Bad Year for Environment at WV Legislature
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by Jim Kotcon, Chapter Energy Committee | 2012

Hard to believe, then again, this IS West Virginia!

The Regular session of the WV Legislature ended March 10, and there is not much good news. Most of the bills we supported, including improvements to Marcellus gas regulations and support for Energy Efficiency rules were not taken up.
A Green Buildings Act, SB 76, which we had sought for several years was largely gutted, and a very weak version passed. It now mandates that state-funded buildings meet current energy efficiency codes, not exactly the significant reform we wanted.
A Solar Energy Bill of Rights, HB 2740 was also substantially revised. Instead of guaranteeing access for homeowners to install solar panels, the bill now allows Home Owners Associations to establish restrictions or prohibitions on solar energy.
The Legislature also gutted the state’s existing greenhouse gas inventory law.
The Legislature adopted SB 497 allowing defendants to file claims for all costs incurred if a mining appeal is deemed “for the purposes of harassment.” A similar bill SB 562, directs WV-DEP to establish rules for interpreting narrative water quality standards related to biological components of streams. Finally, SB 615 also establishes that “Notwithstanding any rule or permit condition to the contrary, …, compliance with a permit issued pursuant to this article shall be deemed (in) compliance...(with)...the federal Water Pollution Control Act.” If a permit condition contradicts an established state rule or standard, the permit condition overrules the state regs. These could have a chilling effect on citizen suits provisions and our ability to enforce mining laws, because we are constantly challenging the industry-friendly DEP interpretation.
The Special Reclamation Tax to fund abandoned mine clean-up was increased, but even the WV Coal Association supported this one.

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