Legislative Summary 2011

The following legislation was considered and disposed of as noted during the 2011 regular session of the West Virginia State Legislature.

1.  Senate Resolution (SR) 10, “Urging the USEPA to reconsider its veto of the Spruce Mine permit” was adopted. SR 10 further urges EPA to recognize the intent of Congress and the rights of states to protect water resources and further finds the Spruce Mine to be in compliance with state water quality standards, including the narrative standard previously approved by the West Virginia Legislature. Additionally, SR 10, resolves to establish the West Virginia Senate to take “the lead to facilitate a multi-state response to provide a stronger, more cohesive and coordinated voice on matters involving EPA and national coal and energy issues.”SR 10 also embodies a number of the provisions contained in SCR 61 and HCR 111 which were also adopted by the Legislature last year concerning the Spruce Mine.

2.  DEP fee bill (HB2955), adjusted certain surface mining permits was amended to contain the provisions of the Innovative Mine Safety Tax Credit (SB 507) that had been passed last year.  This tax credit bill had been passed by the Legislature in 2010, but because of conflict with other bills that were also passed, it was vetoed. The “West Virginia Innovative Mine Safety Technology Tax Credit Act” encourages new investment in mine safety technologies by providing for a credit against business franchise and corporate net taxes up to fifty percent (50%) of the investment cost of qualifying safety technologies. The Mine Safety Technology Task Force and director of the WV Office of Miners’ Health, Safety & Training will develop a list of approved innovative mine safety technologies which qualify for the tax credit. Safety protection or technologies required by state or federal law are excluded from the Act.

3.  WV DEP Rules Bill (SB 121),which contains the favorable Senate-made amendments to the state's Water Quality Standards Rule (47 CSR 2), (no TDS standard), the Mining & Reclamation Rule (38 CSR 2)  and the Air Quality rules.   The originally-introduced Water Quality Standards Rule had contained a proposed Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) Standard of 500 ug/L.  The Senate removed this proposed standard and also rejected an amendment to add in its place a 250 ug/L standard for sulfate. The M&R rule ws amended by deleating the (industry objected to) provisions dealing with mandatory bond release imposed by DEP.

4.  HB 2437 requiring the automatic de-energization of longwall sheers and cutting heads on continuous miners when methane gas exceeds 1% and HB 2888 strengthening requirements for whistleblowers to the Board of Coal Mine Health & Safety for study and rulemaking consideration.The Board is to investigate the requirements embodied in HB 2437 & HB 2888 to determine whether additional rules or revisions to existing rules are appropriate and report it findings to the Legislature by December 31, 2011.

Bills which did not pass:

1.  SB 248 which established a statutory prohibition on underground slurry injection and provides for a tax credit for developing alternative technologies for disposal of coal slurry.  SB 248 banned new permits for underground slurry injection along with permit modifications or permit renewals.

2. SB 424 Marcellus shale gas regulation bill was not passed by the House.  A critical component of this legislation to coal interests are the protections of well spacing and notice of drilling provisions.

3.  An originating bill SB 572 to extend immunity to state mine rescue members from testifying in accident investigations died in the Senate (Judiciary Committee) for lack of interest.

Note:  DEP Proposed Rules on Blasting and Explosives were ultimately withdrawn by the agency.