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Citizen Action Group Legislative Update
Jan 16, 2015 View this Alert Online Donate

Day Three, Fifty-Seven to Go

by Gary Zuckett, garyz at wvcag.org

The 2015 WV Legislature opened Wednesday evening with Governor Tomblin’s State of the State Address exhorting the legislature to work “together” for the betterment of our citizens. Meanwhile, the Senate introduced 232 bills and the House total was 56. These range from allowing raw milk to be sold to allowing folks to carry a concealed gun without a permit. It’s comforting to know the majority of these will never get out the other end of the legislative sausage grinder. It’s scary to contemplate the ones that might make it along with the few we’d like to see pass.

We’re still digesting all the bills introduced and will have more info on ones of note in the next Update.

Now More Than Ever

If there ever was, this is the session that needs all concerned citizens to become more aware of what’s going on here in Charleston – and to be a Public Citizen – an active participant in the legislative process! Our job representing your interests here is only one side of the lobbying coin. These newly elected representatives need to hear from you back home – early and often – to back us up in our efforts to make some progress and mitigate the damage. Below are action items in this issue and many more to come!

Your Toolbox

Fortunately, you have an excellent toolbox to monitor the lawmakers – the official WV Legislative Web page – www.legis.state.wv.us – copy this into your browser and use it well. With it you can find your Delegates and Senators, read copies of bills, find out what’s on committee agendas, and even listen in on committee meetings and the debates in House and Senate floor sessions. We’re hearing that live video streaming of the floor sessions are planned for later in the session.

Green Energy Needed

Finally, it takes a lot of green energy to field our lobby team and keep this Update coming to you. If you haven’t already, log on to www.wvcag.org and sent us a membership contribution or put a check in the mail to 1500 Dixie, Charleston, WV 25311. We’re here fighting for you, and your support helps to keep the lights on here at the CAG office, Thanks!

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Net Metering at Risk – Calls needed to Energy Chairs

The first bill out of the gate this session (SB1 & HB 2001) is one to repeal the 2009 Renewable and Alternative Energy Portfolio Act. Phil Kabler’s article gives some good background on this effort to send a thumbs-down to Obama’s EPA. In reality, what they are calling the WV Cap & Trade bill has no Caps and no Trades. But it does contain language that makes our WV Net Metering law one of the best in the nation – and one worth saving!

Net Metering is what happens when homeowners have solar panels or wind generation wired up to the grid so that any energy not immediately used at home is sent out for the power company to use for other customers. This is obviously a win-win for everyone and is much needed by homeowners to help recoup the installation costs of these renewable energy systems. As proposed, these two bills would “throw the baby out with the bathwater” and eliminate enacting language for Net Metering. The House version is expected to pass unchanged but the Senate Energy Committee has it laid over and we’re hoping to see an amended version emerge that preserves our net metering statute. Calls to EIM Chair Jeff Mullins @ (304) 357-7831 asking him to preserve Net Metering would be helpful starting on Monday. Then, wait until mid-week and the Senate bill is sent to House s to call the chairs of the House Energy Committee Woody Ireland 304-340-3195 and Judiciary John Shot 304-340-3187 asking them to accept the Net Metering amendment from the Senate. With some good lobbying by Mountain View Solar (&others) and your calls from home, I think we can help save our Net Metering from what seems to be unintended consequences of being in the same part of the code that is being repealed. Thanks!

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Citizen’s United Ruling – Five Years Later

As we experience our first Republican-led legislative session, its seems important to ask the question – “How much leverage on WV elections did corporate & millionaire so-called ’independent expenditures’ unleashed by the 2010 Supreme Court’s ‘Citizens United vs FEC’ decision have?”

From our perspective, A LOT! Koch Bros front group Americans for Prosperity (theirs not ours) spent millions in WV attacking incumbents. Karl Rove’s Super PAC muddied the water too. Others from both sides piled on. These groups spent millions in ‘dark money’ because these groups’ donors did not need to be disclosed.

They targeted not only Congressional races, but also state Delegate and Senate races. The result? The nastiest mud-slinging election in memory – one which turned off voters to the point that 2/3 of them stayed home, making this election the lowest in turn-out since the 1950s.. Many races were won or lost by slim margins. The result has been called a “Republican tsunami” but it seems more like a tsunami of corporate cash.

To commemorate this and subsequent Supreme Court rulings allowing corporate “persons” and the super-wealthy to buy our elections, CAG is sponsoring a showing of a new documentary on this assault on our democracy; “Pay to Play” at the Unitarian Church at 7PM on Thursday January 22nd. Those from out of town can view the movie on line for a modest rental at Pay 2 Play: Democracy’s High Stakes.


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Water Unites Us

On January 9, many of us woke and wondered what was in the air that could be causing a strange licorice-like odor? Later, we learned that it was not only our air, but also our water, that had been contaminated here in Charleston, and in eight other neighboring counties. A comprehensive bill (SB 373) relating to water resources protection was introduced and passed in response to the Elk River chemical leak. However, once the law went into effect some lawmakers immediately suggested that implementation of the bill should be delayed and that the legislature should revisit SB 373’s “unintended consequences.” At the same time, various industries, including the oil and gas and chemical manufactures began pushing for changes that would exempt thousands from the bill’s inspection and safety mandates.

As WV Rivers Coalition Executive director Angie Rosser told the Charleston Daily Mail earlier this week, “A lot of tank owners told DEP it would be impossible to register and inspect their tanks by the deadlines, and to the agency’s credit, they stuck to the deadlines so that we would no longer be in the dark about where tanks are and the threat they pose.” A new report by the Rivers Coalition and Downstream Strategies, offers analysis of initial aboveground storage tank registrations called for under SB373, illustrates why the bill is needed by documenting just how many tanks are close to rivers and streams, in addition to providing specific information on they contain and what industries own and have registered the tanks.

Now that the legislative session is here, WV-CAG will continue working with the Rivers Coalition and other members of the WV Safe Water Roundtable to oppose exemptions for the oil and gas and other industries, and other efforts to weaken the provisions of SB 373, and to support and advance a Water Policy Agenda that:

  • Protects all of our rivers and streams protected for current and future drinking water use;
  • Facilitates in the creation of strong source water protection plans and involved the public in the planning process;
  • Mandates strong regulation of aboveground storage tanks and ensures that tank owners will be financially responsible for potential contamination events through adequate bonding requirements; and
  • Continues and implements the preliminary recommendations of the WV Public Water System Supply Study Commission and ensures completion of the Chemical Safety Board Recommendation Roadmap by June 2015.

There is much that still needs to be done to improve our water system locally and to improve water protections and water quality around the state, and we can’t do it without you.   Stay tuned to our updates for more details on what you can do in the coming weeks, and don’t forget about these opportunities to learn more about water policy and how you can become involved in the statewide movement for clean water:

January 17: Safe Water System Leadership Training

9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. (lunch provided) at St. Marks United Methodist Church, 900 Washington St E., Charleston, WV. Register here. This leadership training, hosted Advocates for a Safe Water system, will inform you on what a safe water system is and how you can involve your friends and neighbors in our strategy to improve the Kanawha Valley’s water system.

January 17: March and Rally for Clean Water Statewide

2:00 p.m. Join us on the WV State Capitol Steps (on the Kanawha Blvd. side of the capitol building). Statewide, threats to our clean water are increasing. Come learn about the threats and what you can do to take a stand for clean water!

5pm – 8 pm: After Rally Party/Dinner, at Fireside Bar and Grill (above Little India 1604 Washington St. E.), suggested minimum donation $15. Proceeds benefit WV Water Roundtable. www.awarewv.org to register.

January 23 – 24: Looking Forward: Summit on Chemical Safety in West Virginia

Participate in conversations about local chemical safety; Learn about successful models implemented in other states and solutions that address disproportionate impacts of chemical releases on communities of color and low-income communities. Be a part of local solutions to prevent water contamination. Sponsored by People Concerned About Chemical Safety with support from Appalachian Stewardship Foundation and the Unitarian Universalist Congregation. Registration begins December 9 at chemsafety.org

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WV FREE’s Annual Roe v. Wade Benefit Gala
Thursday, January 22nd, 2015 from 7-9 PM at the WV Women’s Club of Charleston

Kick up your heels to the tunes of jazz great Bob Thompson, enjoy delicious food from Whimsy Catering, honor Delegate Stephen Skinner as our 2015 Helaine Rotgin Champion for Choice and be inspired by Sharona Coutts, our keynote speaker and an investigative journalist with rH Reality Check.

Interested in sponsoring the gala or purchasing a ticket? Contact Laura@wvfree.org or call 304-342-9188.

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Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Events

Monday, January 19 is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The Martin Luther King, Jr. State Holiday Commission is hosting events in Charleston, WV. For details, click here.

In Huntington, WV, folks will assemble at 4:30 p.m. at the 16th Street Baptist Church at Elm Street and 9th Avenue in Huntington for a march to the Joan C. Edwards Theater (Marshall University Campus). Att 5:30 p.m., there will be a recitation of Dr. King’s “I have a dream” speech, music and and a performance by the Praise Team dance group.

In Lewisburg there will be a march from Lewisburg’s Courthouse to Washington Street’s Lewisburg United Methodist Church starting at 11AM. There will be a free meal all who attend, followed by a wonderful presentation including music, speakers, drumming, and inspiration, all around

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Energy Efficiency Should Be Part of Climate Change Plan

by Emmett Pepper, emmett@eewv.org

As you may know, the EPA has proposed regulating existing power plants to address climate change, called the Clean Power Plan (CPP). Under the CPP, states can come up with their own state implementation plan, by addressing climate change using four building blocks:

  1. More energy efficient power plants,
  2. More electricity from low-carbon-emitting natural gas,
  3. More electricity from renewable anergy, and
  4. More “demand-side” energy efficiency in homes, businesses and industries.

Last year, the West Virginia Legislature put restrictions intended to make it so that the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) had to address climate change under the CPP by making power plants more efficient, essentially only allowing one building block and ignoring the other three. This year, a bill has been introduced (SB 4 /HB 2004) to go even further, making it clear that West Virginia would be restricted to efficiency at power plants. The bill also requires the DEP to report to the Legislature on the feasibility of meeting the goals of the CPP, once the final EPA rules are released this summer. CAG’s Energy Efficient West Virginia program has no problem with having a feasibility report, but does not believe that the government should limit its options in complying with the law.

We need your help in addressing this issue!

Call or email the Energy Committee Chairmen Mullins and Ireland! Ask them to:

  1. Amend SB 4 / HB 2004 to allow the state to count energy savings in West Virginia businesses and homes count toward meeting the EPA’s Clean Power Plan goals, either by a.)allowing all four building blocks or b.) by removing restrictions on which building blocks can be implemented.
  2. Call or write back to you and let you know what they plan to do about the issue.

Senate Energy, Industry, and Mining Committee Chair, Senator Jeff Mullins – jeff.mullins@wvsenate.gov – (304) 357-7831

House Energy Committee Chair, Delegate Woody Ireland – woody.ireland@wvhouse.gov – (304) 340-3195

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