By John McFerrin
The January meeting was a time of transitions, and more transitions to come. This was the first Board meeting presided over by new President Larry Thomas. It was a peaceful transition with very little (actually none) pomp or circumstance. We’re not a very pompous bunch.
With Larry’s ascent to the throne, Cindy Ellis immediately flew over to her new perch as Immediate Past President, unceremoniously booting Hugh Rogers from that position. In order to diminish the sting of this bloodless coup (and in recognition of his value as a Board member), President Thomas appointed Hugh to fill the unexpired term of a Board member who had resigned.
We also recognized and welcomed Taylor Sharp as the new representative of The Rivers Coalition.
The upcoming transition was the departure of Beth Little from her position as Administrative Assistant. She is involved in a lot of things right now and is stretched. She has been wanting to leave for a while. We kept hoping this idea would go away but it hasn’t so we will have to do something. We formed a search committee to find a replacement for her (were that even possible!). Hugh Rogers and Buff Rodman will serve on that committee.
We also discussed some things we needed to do or might do in the future. We are currently without a Senior Vice President so we need to find one. Since we assembled all the Board biographies for the Anniversary program we might consider putting them on the website. We have changed the name of the Wind Committee to the Renewable Energy Committee so we have to change that in the Voice.
We also had some discussion about commercial logging in West Virginia’s state parks. There is a bill currently pending in the West Virginia Legislature which would allow logging, something which is currently prohibited. We have joined a coalition to oppose this proposal. Larry also reported that he will soon be meeting with the West Virginia Division of Forestry to discuss its proposal to timber in the West Virginia state parks.
There are some complications with the website, particularly with the store and with PayPal. The website committee (Cindy Rank, Jim VanGundy, Frank Young, Beth Little, Cindy Ellis, Jackie Burns, Dan Radmacher, and Larry Thomas) will spring back into action to address these.
We also discussed future meetings and activities. We have reserved the Elk River Touring Center for April 20-22. The meeting will include a facilitated discussion on the future of the organization.
A committee of Jackie Burns, Cindy Rank, and Marilyn Shoenfeld will look into having a review along with our fall meeting. A review would include outings, evening discussion/panel, etc.
Hugh Rogers reported on the new edition of the Hiking Guide. He noted that his aspiration to have it out by the end of 2017 had proven overly optimistic. There are still technical difficulties with the maps. They are actively working on it and will publish as soon as possible.
Beth Little reported on membership. Membership is holding steady or even rising a bit. She also reported on the Fund Appeal that went out in the fall of 2017. There was an increase from last year in the funds raised.
Because our treasurer was absent, we didn’t have a treasurer’s report to review. We had the same difficultly with a budget for 2018. We had all received a draft budget but we weren’t sure that the figures were complete so we didn’t want to act on it, thought the Board had approved the Lobbying funds for WV Environmental Council.
Frank reported on matters legislative. The West Virginia Environmental Council had asked for suggestions of legislative priorities to pursue. After considering suggestions, it had adopted as priorities four areas:
- Defend clean air and water
- Work for a responsible and adequately controlled fossil fuel industry
- Promote renewable sources of energy and energy efficiency
- Oppose bills detrimental to our long term goals
The Environmental Council has hired Karan Ireland and Chrystal Good as lobbyists. It does not have as much money as in the past since the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition has dropped out, choosing to use its limited lobbying resources in another way.
We noted that we gave $100 to Citizens for Clean Elections, a subgroup of WV Citizens Action Group, to boost their efforts to secure a matching grant. Citizens for Clean Elections is working hard to promote disclosure of sources of candidate funds.
In matters of extractive industries, Cindy Rank noted that we (more specifically Jim VanGundy) had commented on the proposal by the J. F. Allen Company for a Major Modification of its NPDES permit for its Pond Lick Quarry outside Elkins. The modification, if granted, would likely result in more aluminum being discharged into Shavers Fork. There was a story on this in the January issue of The Highlands Voice.
Cindy also reported that there is a pending bill in the West Virginia Legislature to redefine the relationship between the Surface Mining Act and the Clean Water Act. It has always been our position that they are integrated statutes that must be complied with together. The bill seeks to change that relationship primarily via changes in bond release requirements, etc.
Cindy Ellis reported that the Appalachian Gas Working Group is still active. They are still doing water monitoring, establishing a baseline in the event that the pipelines are constructed.
On matters of renewable energy, Larry Thomas announced that there won’t be an effort to persuade the Legislature to require improvements in the rules for siting industrial wind farms. Instead, we will approach the Public Service Commission, asking that it improve the regulations.