|New WV House speaker Hanshaw ties to gas highlight legislative ethics loopholes|
By Ken Ward Jr. and Kate Mishkin, Charleston Gazette/ProPublica
Toward the end of this year's legislative session, a little-noticed bill was moving through the West Virginia House of Delegates to limit legal challenges that had slowed new natural gas-fired power plants in the state.
Delegate Roger Hanshaw, a Republican lawyer from Clay County who was serving as vice chairman of the Judiciary Committee, took to the floor to explain the legislation.
"This bill is a little inside baseball to practitioners of environmental law in West Virginia," explained Hanshaw, a supporter of the bill.
It wasn't the first time that Hanshaw engaged in some pretty effective legislative inside baseball on energy bills.
Last year, Hanshaw engineered passage of a bill that gave natural gas companies a broad exemption from chemical tank safety standards that West Virginia put in place after a 2014 spill that contaminated drinking water for 300,000 people.
Hanshaw was elected speaker in late August, succeeding Tim Armstead, who is now a justice on the West Virginia Supreme Court. Hanshaw is expected to be re-elected speaker in January. In the position, Hanshaw wields significant control over which bills are called up for votes and which are sent to committees to effectively die.
When he's not in the state Capitol, Hanshaw makes his living as an attorney with the Charleston-based firm Bowles Rice, where his clients have included natural gas companies and gas industry lobby groups.
Over the last three years, he has represented the operator of a Fayette County natural gas waste disposal site in legal battles with state regulators and nearby landowners. He argued its case before the state Environmental Quality Board and the state Supreme Court. Then, he filed a brief on behalf of two industry groups when the case went to a federal appeals court.
Under the state's ethics laws, those overlapping interests aren't enough to keep Hanshaw from voting on matters affecting the industry, including the bill to help stop coal-funded legal challenges to power plants.
READ REST OF STORY New WV House speaker's ties to gas highlight legislative ethics loopholes By Ken Ward for wvgazettemail.com