Legislative Pulse: West Virginia

Published June 2, 2015

Editor’s Note: West Virginia State Del. Joshua Nelson (R-Boone) is serving his second term in West Virginia’s House of Delegates. Nelson serves on the Energy, Government Organization, Industry and Labor, and Veterans Affairs committees. 

Burnett: You sponsored House Bill 2004 requiring the state’s Department of Environmental Protection, commonly called DEP, to submit any state implementation plan developed to comply with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plant rule to be submitted to the legislature for approval. What was the motivation behind your bill?

Nelson: We feel EPA’s clean power plant rules would be a gross overreach of the bureaucracy’s power. Protecting West Virginians against such actions is a top priority of mine. Coal miners’ lives and livelihoods matter, and no agency should be able to legislate them out of a job without oversight.

HB 2004 is a necessary protection in our state. We do not want West Virginia DEP submitting plans to EPA without our input. HB 2004 is an example to Congress as well. No agency should be allowed to legislate. Lawmaking is solely the job of the legislative branch. 

Burnett: West Virginia also recently enacted a bill rescinding the state’s renewable power mandate, and the state’s Board of Education broke with many other states allowing schoolchildren to hear both sides of the climate science debate. What do you think of these efforts?

Nelson: All sides of any debate should be allowed to be heard. When one side starts to shut out another, there is usually an ulterior motive involved.

As far as ending the state’s renewable power mandate, I feel the free market should dictate what sources we use for energy. [While he was governor, current] U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat, was trying to work with the Obama administration on this matter. Although I believe his intentions were good, the result was a potential decline in coal use in our energy mix, dropping by at least 20 percent. Any way you look at it, this would mean that coal miners would lose jobs.

Burnett: What other environmental issues at the state or federal level are you tracking?

Nelson: We are always tracking new legislation coming out of Washington, DC as well as bills from anti-free market legislators coming out of Charleston. Wherever we can fight for free-market principles, you will find me and other like-minded West Virginia legislators doing so.