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Board Of State Mine Reclamation Insurer Could Operate In Secret

Senate President Craig Blair - 020722.jpg
Perry Bennett
/
WV Legislative Photography
Senate President Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, speaks on SB 2 and SB 3 during remarks on Feb. 7, 2022. Both bills passed the chamber following lengthy debate on Feb. 8.

A new board proposed by the legislature to backstop the state’s mine reclamation fund may be able to operate in secret.

Senate Bill 1 would create a Mining Mutual Insurance Company to issue mine reclamation bonds backed by at least $50 million in taxpayer funds.

But as written, the bill would exempt the five-member board from state open meetings laws and the Freedom of Information Act. That means the board’s activities would be shielded from public view.

The board would consist of a chair appointed by the governor. Other members would be appointed by the secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection, the Insurance Commissioner, the Senate president and the House speaker.

Gary Zuckett, executive director of the West Virginia Citizen Action Group, said SB 1 needs more scrutiny in light of last year’s legislative audit of the state mine reclamation program. The audit found the program's liabilities far exceeded the available funds.

“We really need to lift up this legislative audit,” he said, “The auditors, I think, did their due diligence on this."

The audit recommended a commission to study the problem. Instead, the legislature has proposed this solution.

Energy & Environment Reporter, ctate@wvpublic.org, 202-679-8470, @tatecurtis

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