By Donald S. Garvin, Jr., West Virginia Environmental Council Legislative Coordinator
As I write this on Friday night, May 29, the 2009 regular session of the West Virginia Legislature is still not over. However, they have finished most of their work, and it looks like they will sign the budget bill on Sunday.
But the Governor has called for a Special Session, which will begin on Monday, June 1. The good news is that HB 3000, the Governor’s proposed Transmission Line Tax Bill, is NOT on the agenda. The bad news is that two of the Governor’s other energy bills ARE on the agenda.
One of those is SB 297, Alternative and Renewable Energy Portfolio Act. This bill creates a phony “Renewable Portfolio Standard” that includes lots of “clean coal” technologies and burning waste tires, and lacks any emphasis on implementing energy efficiency measures. The other is SB 375, Office of Coalfield Community Development Master Land Use Plans. This is the Governor’s post-mining land use bill, and is basically another attempt to get around the “approximate original contour” provisions of SMCRA and to promote “clean coal” projects on mountaintop removal mine sites.
Here is a brief update on the environmental bills that were still in limbo when I reported to you last month.
HB 2535, the Solar Energy Tax Credit Bill, was vetoed by the Governor because of a technical error. In the extended session, the Legislature amended the bill to fix the error and sent it back to the Governor for his approval. The bill provides a state personal income tax credit of up to $2,000 for the installation of a residential solar energy system.
SB 715, the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Act, was also vetoed by the Governor – and rightfully so. This bill should have been titled the “Delay Chesapeake Bay Restoration Act.” While purportedly attempting to find funding sources for Eastern Panhandle wastewater treatment plants, the bill actually was an attempt to extend compliance deadlines for those plants to meet federal water quality standards for nitrogen and phosphorous. In his veto message the Governor pointed out that messing around with compliance schedules would be a violation of provisions of the federal Clean Water Act. In the extended session, the Legislature amended the bill by removing the section that extended compliance schedules, and sent it back to the Governor for his approval.
The Governor signed and approved the following bills:
SB 600, the Special Reclamation Fund Tax
SB 461, Extending Selenium Effluent Limits Compliance Time
HB 2931, Removing Timber Severance Tax for Three Years
HB 2860, Regulating Sequestration and Storage 0f Carbon Dioxide