West Virginia Update
IN THIS ISSUE
- Our Legislative Priorities
- Environment: Energy, Water, Aboveground Storage Tanks, Fracking & Methane
- Clean Elections
- Library Financing
The League Board has adopted its 2016 legislative priorities. Each member of the legislature has received a letter including the League’s priorities.
The League of Women Voters of West Virginia:
- Supports reforms of the WV tax system that are broadly based, rely on diverse revenue sources, provide an adequate, stable yield, and treat taxpayers equitably.
- Supports strengthening disclosure requirements for the sources of political campaign expenditures, including independent expenditures and election-related communications.
- Supports measures that encourage investment in energy efficiency in West Virginia’s homes, businesses, and industries.
- Supports expanding the availability of services for people who need treatment for mental illness or substance abuse.
The League opposes measures which would weaken protection of the environment. In keeping with its goal of encouraging participation by citizens in their government, the League will continue to monitor election laws and oppose measures which limit access to voting.
The League will be supporting the following in the upcoming session.
ENERGY EFFICIENCY – The LEEP program
Energy Efficient WV is pushing the Local Energy Efficiency Partnership (LEEP) Act, a tool to finance the up-front costs for making buildings more efficient and using the energy savings to pay off the investment. Some of the attributes of this program:
- It would be a tool to finance the up-front costs for making buildings more efficient, and use the energy savings to pay off the investment.
- Local governments could choose whether to create this funding mechanism, at no risk to tax payers.
- Energy efficiency builds jobs!
The legislature has the authority to weaken, strengthen, or pass the rules as submitted. The League will be working with other environmental organizations for strengthening rules to enforce protective laws. Rules on Water Quality Standards:
- Reject revisions to the Aluminum and Selenium standards that will weaken the protection of WV’s waters.
- Keep “Category A” Drinking Water Standards for WV’s waters. There will be efforts to take away that protection.
- Learn how to participate in local water protection, go to the WV Rivers Coalition website, and download the new safe water toolkit – Drinking Water Protection: A Citizen’s Guide to Getting Involved.
ABOVEGROUND STORAGE TANKS
In July, DEP proposed a new rule which includes detailed rules for implementing the Aboveground Storage Tank (AST) Act. This rule went through an exhaustive public notice and comment process. In November, it was submitted to the Legislative Rule-making Review Committee. At that time, the July rule was pulled from the Committee agenda and, without citizen involvement, agreed to numerous changes proposed by the regulated community. An amended version was then passed by the Committee. The League asks the Legislature to restore the most important protections stripped from the AST rule.
- Prohibit illegal tanks from receiving delivery of chemicals.
- Close the loophole allowing for voluntary compliance with standards.
- Consider threats to drinking water and human health in siting new tanks.
- Require periodic inspections by certified personnel.
EFFECTS OF FRACKING ON DRINKING WATER
The LWVUS, joined by the LWVWV and other state Leagues, sent comments to the EPA’s Science Advisory Board (SAB) in regard to the board’s study on the effects hydraulic fracturing has on drinking water sources. The League’s comments state that the research reported in the draft is not the comprehensive and definitive study Congress funded in 2010. The League requested that the Hydraulic Fracturing Research Advisory Panel urge the SAB to restore integrity to the final report and to the SAB legacies by taking actions, as outlined in the League’s statement.
Among the concerns raised were the problems of lack of control of noise, dust, and volatile organic compounds; disposal pits; testing water supplies; and some permissive instead of mandatory language. See the WV Surface Owners Rights Organization website for more information.
ADOPT RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE WV PUBLIC WATER SYSTEM SUPPLY STUDY COMMISSION
The WV Public Water System Supply Study Commission (PWSSSC) was established by SB373 to provide an annual report with policy recommendations to the legislature. Its second report, issued on December 15, 2015, is available online. Key policy recommendations include:
- Permit release of information that is already in the public domain. Legislation (SB423) passed in 2015 created conflict and uncertainty about what information can be presented to the public regarding potential contaminant sources, even if this information is currently within the public domain. The legislature needs to clarify that public water systems can share information already subject to public disclosure.
- Provide information to downstream public water systems to adequately prepare for emergencies. In order to minimize contamination risk and to prepare for emergencies, public water systems need up-to-date information about contaminants that pose a threat to the water supply. These recommendations make sure utilities are notified about substantive changes to aboveground storage tanks, the toxicity of chemicals stored upstream, and mobile threats (such as trains) to the water supply.
- Spills must be reported in a timely manner.
- Continue a $2 million appropriation to the Board of Public Health. The BPH aids water utilities in the preparation of their Source Water Protection Plans.
THE WV LEAGUE’S COMMENTS
WV CLEAN POWER PLAN
The WV Department of Environmental Protection is working on how to comply with the U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan for Existing Power Plants and sought public comment and data. The goal by 2030 of the Clean Power Plan is to cut carbon pollution from the power sector 32 percent below 2005 levels. The League sent comments related to the Clean Power Plan.
The League sent comments or added its name to comments by other organizations on water quality standards, Fracking, and AST’s (aboveground storage tanks).
FEDERAL RULES ON FRACKING
The LWVUS, joined by the LWVWV and other state Leagues, sent comments to the EPA’s Science Advisory Board (SAB) in regard to the SAB’s study on the effects hydraulic fracturing has on drinking water sources. The League’s comments state that the research reported in the draft is not the comprehensive and definitive study Congress funded in 2010. The League requested that the Hydraulic Fracturing Research Advisory Panel urge the SAB to restore integrity to the final report and to the SAB’ legacies by taking actions, as outlined in the League’s statement.
EPA’S NEW METHANE POLLUTION REGULATION
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed the first-ever air pollution standard for new and modified oil and gas facilities. This regulation is a critical part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions by more than 40 percent by 2025. Throughout the country, methane and other harmful substances are released from wells, compressors, and pipelines, among other sources throughout the oil and gas sector. Methane emissions from the oil and gas sector are substantial – about one-third of total U.S. methane emissions. Tightly regulating this methane is absolutely critical to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and protecting public health. Curbing methane emissions is a “win-win” that can save fuel, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve air quality, and improve pipeline safety. Doing so is a critical near-term step toward implementation of the Climate Action Plan and continued U.S. leadership on climate protection and healthier air. The LWVUS supports EPA’s efforts to protect our people by cutting methane emissions
OTHER LEAGUE PRIORITIES
Public financing and transparency of political spending are important safeguards for a true democracy. The corporate elite, millionaires and billionaires should not be able to use their wealth to bribe our elected officials, and they should dictate what happens to the future of our state and the future of our people. In a true democracy, everyone’s voice should be heard. Donors who contribute to a candidate’s campaign or spend millions of dollars on political ads should not have more access to and influence over our government.
Julie Archer and Natalie Thompson are co-coordinators of WV Citizens for Clean Elections, a coalition of organizations that advocates for transparency and accountability in elections through reforms, such as public financing and full disclosure of political spending. See Julie Archer and Natalie Thompson: Next step for WV, eliminate secret political donations.
Senate Bill No. 113 is a bill currently in the WV Legislature which would increase teacher pay over a 5-year period. It would do this by allowing counties to impose an additional levy of $.01 per $100 of assessed valuation on taxable property for the exclusive purpose of funding public libraries. League members Priscilla Haden and Betty Barrett are watching for action on this bill.
The main emphasis this year by the WV Library Association will be on keeping the Grants-in-Aid at the same level as it has been the last few years – $5.09 per capita. The Association also wants a Facilities Improvement Fund. However, they believe that passing a new tax will not happen this year, if ever. At the federal level, there is a push to help school libraries.
TURNING POINT SUFFRAGIST MEMORIAL
A league in Virginia is spearheading an effort to build a memorial to the women who sacrificed so much in the days leading to the passage of the 19th Amendment. In partnership with the association trying to raise funds to build this memorial, the league is are trying to raise awareness among members all over the country; the imprisoned women were from all over the country as well. They are also collecting suffrage effort stories from the states to be made available at the memorial. Many of the supporters had great-grandmothers in the forefront of the fight. If you are interested in this project, please see the Turning Point Suffragist Memorial website. The League State Board has made a modest contribution to this effort.
Nancy Novak, President
League of Women Voters of West Virginia