Education, Energy, Environment, Latest News, West Virginia Legislature

House committees approve carbon sequestration, school consolidation impact statement bills

MORGANTOWN – The House Judiciary Committee kept the House carbon sequestration bill moving forward Friday. And House Education OK’d a bill regarding school consolidation impact statements.

The sequestration bill is HB 4491 and matches SB 622 progressing through the Senate. The intent of the bills is to prevent the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere from fossil fuel operations.

The legislation sets up a Department of Environmental Protection permitting process. It excludes underground injection done for enhanced oil recovery.

The bill sets up an application process and requirements. Companies wishing to inject the carbon must obtain consent of 75% of landowners involved and make a good faith effort to find the rest. Surface owners will own the liquefied carbon dioxide injected into the ground.

Applications must go out for a 30-day public comment period and DEP has one year to approve the permit.

Under this framework, injected CO2 is not considered a pollutant and the injection sites are not a public nuisance. Judiciary Committee counsel said this provision helps shield the operations from public nuisance lawsuits – but not private suits.

Two funds are created for collected fees – one for program operation, and a trust fund for long-term management once a well is completed.

Ben Beakes appeared before the committee, as he did Thursday before Senate Energy. He told the members the sequestered CO2 is not considered a greenhouse gas, it’s almost food grade.

It gets injected into pore spaces 8,000 to 12,000 feet underground, well below drinking water tables and shale formations.

Department of Environmental Protection Deputy Secretary Scott Mandirola told the committee the process will be governed by a 93-page bill the Legislature is passing. As a safety measure, the DEP’s Office of Oil and Gas must be on site during portions of the drilling and casing process to ensure there will be no leakage from the wells. The wells will be inspected periodically after injection begins.

“I believe it would be very difficult to migrate all the way to the surface,” he said of possible CO2 leakage.

The committee approved the bill in a voice vote with only one or two audible votes against. It goes next to the House floor. SB 622 is on its way to the Senate floor.

Consolidation bill

SB 229 is the school consolidation bill. Committee Vice Chair Joe Statler, R-Monongalia, had some family members attend the meeting and was permitted to make his first go as chair, running the meeting.

The bill passed the Senate unanimously. It requires an impact statement before a school board closes or consolidates a school or schools, except where the voters have already passed a construction bond affecting those schools.

The impact statement must address the students affected, including transportation times; the financial health of the county; the enrollment of the school that would receive students through consolidation; the school personnel affected; and the community.

Delegate Heather Tully, R-Nicholas, offered a successful amendment to exempt any project in progress or already approved from being subject to provisions of bill so school boards don’t have to spend time backtracking to create an impact statement.

Her Nicholas County GOP colleague Delegate Caleb Hanna expressed some cynicism about the apparent hypocrisy of the bill, saying the Legislature hasn’t supported small local schools. “This Legislature’s goal has been to consolidate schools.”

Statler had to stop Hanna and Tully from bickering over their disagreement.

Apart from Hanna’s comments there was no debate and the bill passed in voice vote. It heads to the House floor. If the full House adopts Tully’s amendment the bill will have to go back to the Senate for concurrence.

Tweet David Beard @dbeardtdp Email