Environmental Update: The good and bad of CROSSOVER DAY!
by Carey Jo Grace
We’re still watching…
HB 4408, expanding private companies’ ability to develop recreational facilities is still alive – it passed the House last Monday, and is now in Senate Finance. This bill would privatize development in our state parks and forests, allowing casinos, mountain roller coasters, ORV trails; 50 year leases; and increased fees. Tourism dollars help our state, but we shouldn’t allow a free-for-all on public lands. Please go here and tell your legislators to vote NO, immediately!!!
HB 2598 – Remember when 300,000 West Virginians in nine counties had their water contaminated by a toxic chemical leak? Apparently our Legislature either has a really short memory, or they don’t care. The original Aboveground Storage Tank Act gets weakened almost every session, and this year’s attack is HB 2598. It caters to the oil and gas industry by relaxing inspection requirements for oil and gas waste tanks located in zones of critical concern – the tanks just upstream from drinking water intakes. HB 2598 passed in the House and is single-referenced to the Senate Energy, Industry and Mining Committee. You can read the fact sheet here.
A couple of bills that benefit the oil and gas industry made progress. SB 650, eliminating the number of royalty owners needed to develop a tract, passed both the House and Senate. And a complex, sweeping bill (SB 694) addressing application requirements, regulation, and compensation options for horizontal wells is on 2nd reading in the House today.
The Legislature is still trying to figure out how to increase funding to boost the number of oil and gas inspectors. SB 480 is reported to be dead in the House, but could be revived since SB 613, addressing the same issue, didn’t survive crossover. We’ll keep watching SB 480 because if funding is not increased, the Office of Oil and Gas risks running afoul of Federal regulations.
The Division of Air Quality also has a shortage of inspectors and the House approved HB 3082 to remedy the problem for the second year in a row. It allows investment in certain funds in order to make up for lost revenue, but the future may be bleak in the Senate.
And here’s some great news:
The full House never voted on HB 4840, which strips the WV Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training of the power to issue orders and fines for safety violations, eliminates permit fees and mine inspections, and a whole host of other horrible actions. UMWA spokesman Phil Smith was quoted in the Gazette-Mail saying, “We are completely opposed to this insult to West Virginia miners and especially to their families, who have a right to expect them to come home safe and sound at the end of every shift.” Let’s hope this awful bill doesn’t come back to life!