Scorecard: How WV lawmakers vote on clean air, water

Nadia Ramlagan

As West Virginia leads a group of states in a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency’s new emissions rules for power plants, a recent analysis highlights the voting records of the state’s political leaders when it comes to environmental issues.

Jim Kotcon, chair of the West Virginia chapter of the Sierra Club, said the group’s legislative scorecard shows nine state lawmakers consistently voted against environmental protection, with one even voting against their own leadership to take anti-environment stances. But he added, a surprising number of lawmakers have a strong track record for environmental protection.

“We were able to identify 10 legislators that had voted pro environment at least 80% of the time,” Kotcon reported. “We think this is important information for voters and for constituents generally.”

The scorecard includes votes on key environmental bills by all incumbent Delegates and Senators for the 2023 and 2024 legislative sessions. Bills were chosen based on roll call votes where a clear pro-environment position was identified, and where at least 5% of the chamber voted in opposition.

Kotcon added coal and gas bonding for mine or well reclamation continues to pose major environmental challenges to the region. Currently, companies are required to post a bond to ensure they reclaim their sites, but environmental advocates argued the bond amount, often less than $5,000, is not high enough, which can leave old gas wells and coal mine sites abandoned for years. He added state legislators have yet to address the issue.

“Unfortunately, the fossil fuel industry is strong enough in West Virginia that many of these very important bills to address very pressing public interest problems never even get to a vote.”

There are more than 4,000 orphaned wells scattered across the Mountain state, along with hundreds of abandoned coal mine sites.