WV Citizen Action Group
Action Alert
March 15
 Alert Archive


Halfway There, Thirty Days left of 2013 Session

By Gary Zuckett, garyz@wvcag.org

It’s now halfway through the legislative session and we are close approaching several deadlines, the first of which is the March 25th cut-off for introducing bills in both houses. The Senate has introduces 550 bills and the House did them better with 952 for a grand total of 1502 pieces of legislation. Many of these are “same as” bills with the same wording introduced into both chambers. Even if a full third of those are duplicates that still leaves over 1,000 distinct bills to monitor. Whew!

The big event this week was Environment Day – E-Day hosted by our allies at the WV Environmental Council. Citizen Action and its affiliates, WV Surface Owners Rights Org; Energy Efficient WV; and WV for Democracy all shared table space in the rotunda. Lots of old and new enviros showed up to learn and lobby their legislators and then celebrate at the awards dinner that evening. Check out the E-Council’s newsletter for details on the awardees.

Our alert yesterday had an announcement of the rally held at the capitol today to protest both MTR and Marcellus Fracking, but should have included the name of the group whose announcement we were forwarding: the Mt Justice Spring Break group that has been camped out in Dodridge County Park all week. In a rush to get the notice out last evening, their text was pasted in but no mention of the group of origin. Haste makes waste, or at least makes dumb errors…

Mt Justice Spring Break students, around 125 total, came together here in WV from all over the country to learn about the social and environmental justice issues surrounding both mining and oil & gas development in Appalachia. We were invited to do a workshop for these college students on both Energy Efficiency and Surface Owners Rights so Stacy and I journeyed up to Doddridge on Tuesday to meet with them. It’s inspiring to see young folks interested in protecting the environment and keeping our extractive industries accountable.

After the sessions in Doddridge, we were all invited by Diane Pitcock of WV Host Farms www.wvhostfarms.org to a Marcellus and Marshmallow roast to both keep warm around a campfire and hike up the ridge by flashlight to see the Hydrofracking operation ongoing 24-7 right on her property line. This was the first time I had gotten close up and personal to an operating Frack job. As we crested the ridge, floodlights from the 5-10 acre industrial site turned night into day. Diesel generators roared and spewed exhaust that mixed with dust from the Frack sand pumps and fumes from the chemicals used to “stimulate” the formation – all together burning the throat and eyes. Workers at the site monitored the process without any visible protection from the Silica dust that causes white lung or from the various toxic chemicals that, when mixed with the millions of gallons of water, make up the Frack fluid. In all it was like a scene out of a science fiction movie, but it’s not a movie, it’s happening all over northern West Virginia and turning “Almost Heaven” into the opposite for those unfortunate enough to have one of these uninvited industrial sites on their doorstep.

Next week we’ll be participating in several actions focused on the Federal Budget and that weird word “Sequestration” that has now jumped into the news almost every day. See the notices in this newsletter. This is a struggle between those on the top who think that the way to stabilize the economy is severe austerity – cutting social programs to maintain the big tax breaks for millionaires and multinational corporations. We think that there is a JOBS deficit and WAGE deficit. Minimum wage should be increased to at least $10.10 an hour. That would bring it all the way up to the buying power it had in 1968! Go Figure.

We Like Mail
I’m pleased to announce that our Legislative Challenge Fundraising Campaign has reached 20% f our goal. So far we’ve received over $1,000 from our members and readers to help with the lobby effort. This will be matched by our cranky challenge donor. Keep those checks coming into 1500 Dixie St. Charleston 25311 or even better, do a quick donation on-line at www.wvcag.org. Thanks again to all who have anted up to get their donations matched dollar for dollar!

Return to Index

Good News: House Judiciary Committee Advances Public Financing

By Julie Archer, julie@wvcag.org

HB 2805, making the Supreme Court Public Campaign Financing Program permanent, cleared its first hurdle of the legislative session earlier this week when it was advanced by the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. Although consideration was delayed a day, we are glad to report that things are finally moving forward and appreciate your help and support in getting to this point. We couldn't have done it without you.

Since the bill advanced in the House, the Senate Judiciary Committee did not consider the bill on Wednesday, as we were previously anticipating.

Our next step in the process in the House Finance Committee and we need your help to keep the momentum going. Public financing is a key element in the fight for clean elections and fair and impartial courts. Please contact committee members and ask them to support HB 2805. A list of committee members and links to their contact information can be found here:


It’s also important to thank our sponsors and supporters on the committee – Chair Harry Keith White (D-Mingo), Vice-Chair Doug Reynolds (D-Cabell) and Delegate Nancy Guthrie (D-Kanawha).

Return to Index

Energy Efficient West Virginia Update

By Cathy Kunkle, cathykunkle@gmail.com

We are continuing to push to get the integrated resource planning bill (HB 2803) onto the Government Organization Committee's agenda. Please contact members of the Government Organization committee in support of this bill. We have heard that the coal industry is spreading misinformation that this is an evil bill and that it's anti-coal, so it is more important than ever to contact members of the Committee in support. Let the the Committee know that this bill provides a tool to the Public Service Commission that enables greater transparency and accountability from our power companies. Integrated Resource Planning is used by more than half the states in the U.S. and is an opportunity to keep rising electric rates in West Virginia in check.

Earlier this week we met with Delegate Manchin (vice-chair of the House Judiciary Committee) regarding the Energy Efficiency Resource Standard bill currently before the Committee. We should know next week whether the bill will make it onto the Judiciary Committee's agenda.

Return to Index

Sodom and Gomorrah and the Search for Righteousness

By Norm Steenstra, norm@wvcag.org

There is a story in the book of Genesis in which Abraham tries to negotiate with God over the potential destruction of the Cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. God and Abraham dickered back and forth on how many righteous men it would take to save the towns. God started at 50 souls but Abraham successfully lobbied for just 10. Alas they couldn’t find 10 people who qualified and fire and brimstone ensued.

I was reminded of that story – concept of a few righteous people when the WV House of Delegates passed a bill nullifying individual towns and cities the ability to enact local laws on gun control. As the rest of the civilized nation is debating the strengthening of gun laws West Virginia is going in the opposite direction.

Current law in Charleston was enacted in the 1990’s to curtail multiple hand gun sales to out of state traffickers. The ordinance limited sales to one hand gun at a time and required a 72 hour waiting period in order to provide time for an adequate background check. Three other cities in the state have similar laws.

HB 2760 struck down those local laws and restricted gun sales control to the least common denominator set by the legislature. Sort of a one size fits all approach. Keep in mind that the Charleston law only pertained to handguns. Hunting weapons and even assault weapons were not affected

Back to the righteous people thing. Only 4 members of the House of Delegates had the courage to stand up to this NRA backed bill and vote against it. The 4 righteous ones deserve to be singled out and lauded. Delegates Nancy Guthrie, Meesha Poore and Danny Wells all of Kanawha County were joined by newly elected delegate Stephen Skinner of Shepherdstown in voting against the bill. Sadly, the bill passed 94-4. The bill has been sent to the Senate Government Organization committee chaired by Sen. Herb Snyder. Let’s hope that he sits on the bill until the gun debate in Washington is decided.

Return to Index

Reuniting Surface Ownership with Minerals Bill Introduced.

Nearly everyone thinks that separation of ownership of the surface from the ownership of the minerals was a bad idea. Friday HB 2947 was introduced that gives the surface owners the option to purchase any interest in the minerals under their land that is sold at a tax sale.

This bi-partisan bill sponsored by delegates Tim Manchin (D-Marion) and John Ellem (R-Wood) and 6 other delegates would provide a long needed vehicle to reunite land and minerals. Call your delegates and members of the House Judiciary Committee and ask them to support HB 2947.5

Return to Index

Voter ID: An Expensive Solution Looking for a Problem

By Julie Archer, julie@wvcag.org

If you reviewed our 2013 public policy priorities, you will recall that one priority under election and campaign finance reform is opposing voter suppression efforts, such as the misguided proposals (SB 13, HB 2215 and HB 2350) introduced this session requiring all West Virginia voters to present an official government-issued photo ID in order to vote. Proponents say the bill will prevent voter-fraud and keep people voting under phony names, double voting and voting from the grave. However, as Secretary of State Natalie Tennant stated in a recent press release where she vowed to fight any effort to suppress voter turn out, those who want to impose this requirement are proposing a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.

West Virginia already has a good system in place to keep people from voting if they’re not eligible. Voter ID laws are designed to prevent a specific type of voter fraud – voter impersonation. But there are no documented cases of voter impersonation that this measure this added measure would stop. Although, we have had election fraud, a photo ID requirement would not have prevented the recent absentee voting scheme in Lincoln County. If enacted, these proposed voter ID laws would only serve as a barrier to law-abiding citizens exercising their right to vote and would disproportionately depress the votes of the elderly, the poor, racial and ethnic minorities and students. What’s more, the costs of implementing a voter ID law easily outweigh its nearly non-existent benefits. As policy brief released earlier this week by our friends at the WV Center on Budget and Policy, the cost of implementing such a law in West Virginia could top $5 million over five years, based on nation data and the experiences of other states (see http://www.wvpolicy.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Voter-ID-brief.pdf). The brief concludes:

“Requiring voter ID places a heavy burden on the state’s resources, election officials and citizens to ensure that no voter is disenfranchised. With already low voter turnout, as well as already strained resources, West Virginia should carefully consider the costs of a voter ID law. Before diverting resources away from current needs to implement one, while potentially discouraging voters and lowering turnout, we should ask if a voter ID law is just an expensive solution looking for a problem.”

Return to Index

A Broad Band of Thieves Selling Our Fortunes

By Maggie Fry, maggie@wvcag.org

I don’t think I’ll ever forget the day we talked about “jobs” in my 12th grade psychology class. We were just about to graduate, and the psychology teacher had a standing tradition of publicly predicting the sort of employment her students would make of their futures. Before she set about telling us our fortunes (or lack thereof) she took several minutes to explain that federal researchers had just surveyed our area and decided that, considering our education levels and cultural preferences, the telemarketing industry had the best new plan for the employment of mountain people.

Every now and again, I remember sitting in that classroom thinking, “Something isn’t right about this.” I remember again now as I try to encourage CAG members to turn out this Monday, demanding that Verizon et. al. pay their fair share rather than using the billions of dollars they’ve made secreting profits away to the Bermuda triangle to lobby congress for huge cuts to education, healthcare, emergency assistance, social security and other such programs that West Virginia desperately needs.

Because, you know, it really would be nice if some year down the line, we could rest assured that when our kids graduate from high school they don’t inherit a future hedged between this that and the other corporate bet on how to best get us to trade our brains for smart phones and like it on facebook.

Join us in Huntington to say no to Corporate Tax Dodgers:
Monday, March 18th, 3PM
Verizon Wireless Store,
898 3rd Ave, Huntington, WV 257011 7

Return to Index

Public Workers Know That Sequestration Hurts Our Communities

WV-CAG will be sending folks out to support AFGE workers who are standing up to Sequestration next week in Beckley and Bruston Mills. If you live in either area, please show your support by standing in their picket lines.
Wednesday, March 20th beginning at 11am:
Join AFGE Locals 404 and 480, Bureau of Prisons in front of the Beckley Federal Court House at 110 North Heber Street, Beckley, WV for a picket focusing on the devastating impact of sequestration to federal employees, the services they provide and the surrounding communities.

Thursday, March 21st 8am-8pm covering all 3 work shifts:
Join AFGE Local 420, USPS Hazelton outside the gates at 1640 Sky View Dr, Bruceton Mills, WV 26525 for a picket focusing on the devastating impact of sequestration to federal employees, the services they provide and the surrounding communities.

Return to Index

Medicaid Expansion for West Virginia Offers Public Forum and Training

On April 7th, we will partner with more than 2 dozen organizations to host the state's largest forum yet on Medicaid Expansion. You will get all the information and tools you need to become engaged in our efforts to expand Medicaid to 120,000 working West Virginians this spring! But you must RSVP first. See below. Confirmed speakers include a Council of Churches Director Jeff Allen, AFL-CIO President Kenny Perdue, legislative leaders, a Hospital executive, a business owner, and families who would be affected by Medicaid Expansion.

RSVP ON FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/events/148207112006733/

RSVP BY E-MAIL: E-mail RenatePore@gmail.com with RSVP in the subject heading.

ADD YOUR GROUP AS A SPONSOR (sponsors must commit to bringing at least 5 people and spreading the word): E-mail RenatePore@gmail.com with SPONSOR in the subject heading.

Statewide Forum on Medicaid Expansion
Christ Church United Methodist
Sunday, April 7th
2:00 - 3:30pm
(Registration and refreshments starting at 1:00pm!) 

Return to Index

Frack Fluid Secrecy: What Halliburton Doesn’t Want You to Know

As you probably recall, in December 2011 the legislature passed the Horizontal Well Control Act. Last summer, the Department of Environmental Protection proposed rules implementing the Act and those rules are currently before the legislature for approval. The rules are contained in SB 245, which was passed out of Senate Energy, Industry and Mining (EIM) Committee earlier this week with an amendment weakening the provisions that require disclosure of the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing. What is Halliburton trying to hide?

The Dominion-Post had a great editorial on this morning regarding the amendment:


What don’t they want you to know?

Senate panel mistaken to approve rule requiring fracking fluid be kept secret

Ask anyone about the secret to success and they’ll tell you: Shhhh! It’s a trade secret.

Not really. But you might have walked away from a recent session of the Senate Energy, Industry and Mining Committee at the state Capitol thinking that.

Especially, if the members of that panel actually believed the line of nonsense the world’s largest provider of products and services to the energy industry was gushing.

And apparently they did.

This week, that eminent committee advanced Senate Bill 245, which allows the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to put its 46-page Gas Well Act’s rules into effect.

But one of those rules was subject to amending by Halliburton, the Houston-based powerhouse. It objected earlier to the rule providing for divulging its fracking cocktail’s ingredients and concentrations.

Prior to Halliburton’s pressure, that rule gave operators the option of naming the chemical recipe as a trade secret, but it would still be known to the DEP or a health provider in an emergency.

Now, the rule reads that such fracking formulas are not even available to the DEP, except for the purposes of investigations or medical emergencies. And if that data is turned over to a health provider, it requires a physician to ink a confidentiality agreement, and explain in writing why that information is needed.

So now, it’s possible, this rule could prevent a health professional from knowing what they are treating until after the fact. Like ... after their patient’s beyond the point of no return, for example.

Furthermore, the idea that the agency that regulates this industry is not even privy to such information is ludicrous. Why require an investigation before the identity and concentrations of these chemicals is known?

As the fracking fluid rule is stands now, what’s to stop someone from even using an illegal chemical?

Far be it from us to pretend we are experts on fracking fluids. We are not.

Still, what we do know is many, if not most, drilling operators already post the ingredients on the Internet they use and the maximum concentrations in their recipes.

Letting anyone opt out of divulging this information as a trade secret is, at best, wrong-headed. At worst, a betrayal of the public’s trust.

This is no trade secret. Someone just doesn’t want anyone to know what it is and how much of it’s being put in the ground. Unlike many secrets — secret societies, oaths and proceedings — the concept of trade secrets is not repugnant to us.

However, this does not qualify as one. It’s simply an attempt to mislead the public. And it’s already even failed to do that.

SB 245 is now before the Senate Judiciary Committee. To read more about what transpired in EIM, click here.

Return to Index

Lobby Day for Women's Lives
From our Allies at WVFree:

Will you join with us in letting your policymakers know that we support WOMEN's health and decision-making in West Virginia? With states all over the country attacking basic reproductive care for women, like birth control, parental rights, and access to safe abortion services, we need YOU to stand with us and tell West Virginia Lawmakers-- "Not in MY state."

Join us on March 26th at the State Capitol for Lobby Day for Women's Lives. The day will include an advocacy training, visibility event with posters, lunch and press conference, and meeting with your legislators. Register NOW by clicking here.

For more information contact Rachel at Rachel@wvfree.org or call 304.342.9188. 

Return to Index

www.wvcag.org      304-346-5891       Subscribe/Unsubscribe