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This week from Charleston

By Staff | Nov 21, 2014

I was back in Charleston this week for Interim meetings. With a new majority and Speaker to be elected in January, the Capitol was abuzz with plans and rumors. Any transition period has challenges, but the logistics of this transition are bigger than most. Virtually every member will be in a different office in January and all chairmanships will change. Committee assignments may be radically different. The actual committees may change. Because almost all of the staff are “will and pleasure” employees, any or all of them could be replaced. You can imagine that there are a lot of people who are in stressful positions.

While there, I attended a Joint Judiciary committee meeting on proposed changes to whether the Public Service Commission should regulate Municipal and Public Service Districts. There is a proposal to deregulate the rate-making process for these monopolies. I am sure this will be discussed at length in the next session. It is difficult for me to imagine why monopolies should be deregulated. While at the meeting I was able to talk to Senator Brooks McCabe, who is a newly appointed member of the PSC. I was extremely pleased to hear of Senator McCabe’s appointment by the Governor. He is an honorable public servant who wants to see innovation in West Virginia. I look forward to briefing him on the situation with the billing procedures of FirstEnergy/Potomac Edison. Incidentally, Senator McCabe has a connection to Jefferson County. His family was a previous owner of Harewood, Charles Washington’s historic home in Charles Town.

I also attended a meeting that revealed the preliminary results of a West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection study on the levels of radioactivity in fracking waste. The DEP believes that their studies indicate that the radioactivity is well within the OSHA limits permitted for workers exposed eight hours a day to radioactive material. I asked the DEP representative to compare the fracking waste radioactivity levels with acceptable radon levels in homes. Unfortunately, he was not unable to respond. The studies on the radioactivity of drill cuttings will continue to be developed. I am concerned that the protections that were put in place during this last session will be dropped or disregarded in this next session.