Stephen Smith with group at creek

Protect Our Land and Water

Protect Land, Water, and Working People

What WV Can’t Wait For

We’ll have a state where our greatest assets—our land, our water, and our people—are no longer exploited to make out-of-state CEOs rich.

fight corruption2

What We’re Up Against

Out-of-state land owners have been lying to West Virginians for generations.

Our history is one where our hard-working people have continually been sacrificed to make other people rich. The company town could trample miners first amendment rights and cut their pay at will, all at the end of a Baldwin Felts rifle: “In non-union counties, houses [were] owned by the companies. Justice [was] administered by the coal companies. Constitutional rights [were] interpreted by the coal companies.”

With 100 years of blood, sweat, and union solidarity, working class West Virginians did the impossible. They transformed one of the worst jobs on the planet into a decent middle-class living.

Now, the new tactic of these executives is to tell us that we are each other’s enemies–coal miner and kayaker, gas worker and public health advocate—because they know that the moment we unite is the moment they’ll have to stop stealing from us.

We are called upon to do the impossible again.

This time, we must show the nation that in the richest time in human history, we can preserve our property rights and safe water without sacrificing a single working family.

We will no longer be sold to the highest bidder; instead, we will demand that any company doing business in our state will leave us better off than we were before they came–not worse.

Our Plan

  1. Create a jobs promise for every laid off coal miner and gas worker by investing $1.8 billion over 10 years ($180 million per year) in local, long-term, middle-class, sustainable jobs.
    • Form the basis of the jobs promise with The Mountaineer Service Corps, which creates thousands of new union, middle class jobs in public works, energy efficiency, and sustainable industries.
    • Establish a program inside the Public Bank of West Virginia to leverage $40 million of these funds per year, and ensure they are going to projects that build labor and the middle class. Funds will be dispersed in consultation with workers, small business owners, environmental advocates, surface rights owners, and representatives from every major state department. Projects will include initiatives like these:
      • Encourage renewable energy facilities such as solar batteries or geothermal projects to be developed on lands formerly used for mining by passing a strengthened version of The Modern Jobs Act (MOJO,  HB 2589).
      • Actively seek redevelopment opportunities such as the Rock Creek redevelopment plan to build out the Hobet site in Boone County–and redevelopment projects for other areas, such as the Weirton Steel site in Weirton–with the aim of redeveloping these sites to create the highest number of middle class, sustainable jobs for local residents.
      • Pursue emerging industries in downstream technologies (such as solar panel and rack construction), to bolster long term job creation in addition to funding recycling and conservation work.
      • Additional investment opportunities include built infrastructure, parks and outdoor recreation, hydro-electric power, job training initiatives, local tax incentives for energy efficiency projects in private homes, public transportation and train projects, partnerships with community and technical colleges, and more.
    •  Establish the strongest energy efficiency targets in the nation to create jobs. Twice as many people are employed at jobs related to energy efficiency than are employed at all fossil fuel jobs combined, and energy efficiency jobs tend to be “harder to outsource or automate.” About half of states have established Energy Efficiency Resource Standards (EERSs) that require utilities to achieve a certain amount of energy savings each year. West Virginia has a large potential for energy savings owing to older homes. Achieving those savings would create thousands of local jobs–and make homes more comfortable and affordable.
      • Install solar panels and make other energy efficiency improvements on 1,000 public buildings in towns of all sizes (including small, rural towns that could most benefit), creating  about 7,000 jobs over time through the State Bank.
      • Incentivize and reward homeowners who make energy-efficient upgrades to their homes, with on-bill financing and/or pay-as-you-save. On bill financing funds upgrades through utility bills.
      • Lead by example, with the state government implementing advances in energy efficiency, such as developing and executing a plan to reduce emissions by vehicles in the state fleet, and requiring the West Virginia Housing Development Fund (WVHDF) to help West Virginians acquire energy efficient housing.
      • Appoint Public Service Commissioners, as the terms of previous commissioners come to an end, who are committed to representing the interests of consumers over industry and utilities, who are committed to cap or reduce utility costs, diversify of the state’s electricity mix, and dramatically improve the energy efficiency of the state’s buildings.
    • Devise a program to deal with all the excess packaging and plastic waste that will be generated by enhanced hygiene measures, increased deliveries, and so forth as people physically distance.
    • Through the State Bank, fund a state recycling facility.
      • Establish sorting and collection points everywhere, including rural areas, where people currently have no access to recycling programs without travelling
      • Launch a public relations campaign to advertise the program and encourage people to use the new services…make it as much of a duty as wearing the mask in the first place.
      • Create a program to retrieve–and where possible recycle–junk from old dump points over hillsides or in hollers.
    • Support tourism jobs that preserve and promote the natural beauty of West Virginia.
  2. Never let another private company stick working West Virginians with the bill to clean up their mess. Pass the strongest enforcement framework in the country that will shift the costs of extraction away from communities and working families and onto the millionaires and billionaires profiting at the expense of our communities and workers.
    • Multiply existing state fines for spills and violations by 25X, and permit costs by 10X so that companies are no longer incentivized to simply break the law and pay the fine, and so that we have sufficient funding and staffing in the Department of Environmental Protection to monitor. We must no longer have a system that incentivizes violations because it’s cheaper than protecting workers.
    • Require Oil and Gas companies to pay for the water they use (like the rest of us). Water used for fracking is contaminated and thus is removed forever from our use… AND when pumped into injection wells or condensed into salt and sludge pits, it poses a forever threat of contamination to our water sources. We will use surface water withdrawal fees to pay for source water protections and infrastructure, and to hedge against spills, explosions, or other industrial accidents that will occur in the future by companies that may no longer exist. There are hundreds of separate water and sewage utilities in West Virginia, creating a nightmare of bureaucracy, oversight, competing interests, workforce needs—and sadly, making a target-rich environment for corporate opportunism. We will address that.
      • Invest roughly $100 million per year to evaluate and improve or rebuild our water and wastewater systems, which have been a casualty of our boom-bust economy, and long-neglected
      • Begin our water and sewer infrastructure rebuilding investments with the communities that have suffered the most—they come first, not last.
        • Connect thousands of rural and small town West Virginians to safe water systems who now are forced to rely on outdated, or contaminated systems.
        • Find ways to reduce the cost to consumers for water and wastewater utilities, for example, by incentivizing local municipalities and Public Service Districts (PSDs) to merge or work together as Regional Water Boards that include direct representation of consumers, researchers, and government officials.
        • Leverage improvements and diversification as educational opportunities for students as future energy workers. In line with our efforts to expand vocational education in schools and make public technical colleges tuition-free for West Virginians, we will direct these programs to provide greater education around water systems.
        • Require full transparency of all chemicals used in fracking within the state, and utilize chemical markers so that when spills and contamination occur, we can easily track and hold the executives who are responsible financially and criminally accountable.
    • Ensure that bonding fees are sufficient to cover clean-ups and bankruptcy, and eliminate self-bonding, which is a giveaway to companies of hundreds of millions of dollars. “Reserved for companies that can pass certain financial tests, self-bonding amounts to a legally binding promise that when the time comes for reclamation, the company will have the cash on hand to cover the costs. Coal companies like self-bonding because it lets them avoid putting up collateral or paying a fee to a surety company.”
    • Update our state’s water quality standards for the 21st century in line with human health criteria the U.S. EPA released in 2015. Adopt all recalculated human health criteria that are more stringent than current West Virginia criteria, including the adoption of limits for pollutants that do not have criteria, and support the Clean Water Act.
    • Revoke the legal ability of companies to claim eminent domain for energy extraction purposes and/or for private gain. No company should be able to steal our property for their own gain—period.
    • Eliminate the rampant VAT loopholes, theft, and tax evasion within our timberland management system. Maximize the value of our timber resources, now and in the future. We will work with the Division of Forestry and use property tax laws to ensure that out-of-state land companies are paying their fair share for timberland—and that we as a state are incentivizing conservation of our resources, which will only become more valuable over time. We can do this by
      • Protecting State Park lands from deforestation;
      • Ensuring that sawmills are not able to exploit landowners;
      • Encouraging marketing co-ops for landowners;
      • Working to make sure all timber harvests are predicated on silvacultural needs; and
      • Exploring ways to preserve forest land as carbon offsets, and more.
    • Lawmakers and inspectors will be banned from future work as lobbyists, and we will use the Corporate Crime and Political Corruption division in the State Police to shut the revolving door between state government and private industry. See also our plan to End Election Buying, which would prevent political office from being bought and sold.
    • Appoint an experienced environmental scientist to run the Department of Environmental Protection. Choose someone who will finally stand up to corporate executives and prevent millionaires and billionaires from socializing their costs onto us, while privatizing the profits. No more “Department of Everything Permitted.”
    • Support the addition of an Environmental Rights Amendment to the West Virginia Constitution.
    • Require a mandatory review of impervious surfaces used in design for state construction projects and permits, and evaluate the potential alternative use of pervious materials (e.g. rain gardens, pervious pavers).
    • Develop a sound spill prevention program, using the roadmap outlined by West Virginia Chemical Release Prevention Program (WVCRPP) Roadmap Planning Team in 2015 as a starting point.
      • Ensure our laws require spillers to fully pay for any damages they do, including not only to community members, but also to local, small businesses. In the Freedom Industries spill, these WV businesses suffered losses of at least $61 million, which doesn’t include the additional losses and impacts experienced by residents who couldn’t work, or who suffered health impacts.
      • Additionally, strengthen protections for citizens and small business owners by shifting the burden of proof to those whose actions threaten our land and water, rather than placing it on our communities struggling to protect ourselves against an army of corporate lawyers whose job it is to enable the profiteering.
    • Repeal forced leasing, and oppose all further efforts at forced pooling. See also our full plan to End Election Buying, which will help prevent predatory out-of-state companies from directly purchasing more lawmakers year after year until they are able to legalize their theft from West Virginia mineral owners.
    • Create a plan to protect our recreational and drinking water sources by purchasing conservation easements.
    • Plug existing orphaned wells and prevent new wells from becoming orphaned by requiring sufficient bonding.
    • Require companies to ensure access roads to extraction sites are maintained sufficiently that emergency vehicles can safely reach the sites when needed.
    • Require gas companies to pay royalties to mineral owners for natural gas liquids produced and saved.
    • Protect the interests of West Virginia workers, families, small businesses, and landowners against out-of-state companies.
      • Prevent future Rockwool-style giveaways at the expense of taxpayers by creating a much higher bar for PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) agreements. We will also strengthen notification laws so citizens are more included in the process of economic development.
      • Citizens must be individually notified by the company via certified mail or some other means that can be independently tracked. When they are in the potential blast zone or evacuation zone of pipelines, or if their water source will be put at risk, right now there is no proper notification required when citizens have industrial threats imposed on them.
      • Prevent industrial waste producers from locating near elementary schools or within zones and peripheral zones of concern for drinking water intakes.
      • Actively support the Justice for Minden campaign and any other local efforts to force federal action on superfund sites. Our Corporate Crime and Political Corruption State Police division will dramatically improve the regulatory oversight and investigative muscle of state government, and will also be directed to support citizen-led efforts to investigate corporate crime against communities like Minden and Paden City.
      • Protect gas workers from radiation exposure by establishing the nation’s strongest TENORM regulations. Right now companies are profiting by putting our workers–our neighbors, our friends, our family members–at risk without proper training and equipment.
      • Enact a bill ensuring a buffer zone to protect our homes from drilling sites and access roads, and provide for viewshed protections. We must strengthen regulations guiding setback distances and the impacts of extraction and industrial sites on homes, schools, parks, hunting/recreational properties, and public buildings.
        • Strengthen the code and enforcement of laws protecting surface owners. Farmers and all surface owners should have their rights respected if they do not want a well pad on their properties or disrupting their lives.
        • Surface owners must be compensated for any damage done to their properties by extractors, and neighbors must also have the right to protection from noise, lights, fumes, etc.
  3. Train our kids for the diverse, sustainable energy jobs of the future, and equip them to continue West Virginia’s position as an energy-producing state.
    • Aim to make every school in West Virginia a “West Virginia Sustainable School” within 10 years by developing and executing a plan for energy efficiency. Similar efforts have already saved tens of millions of dollars in Marshall County.
    • Establish a Taxpayers Council on Climate Action and, with jobs promises for laid-off-miners and gas workers, set a clear plan to reach carbon neutrality no later than 2050–using the policies outlined above as a starting point. This group will also work with the Inspector General to examine the long-term costs of environmental degradation when evaluating policy and economic development opportunities. We owe it to our children to be a leader on this issue.
    • Reduce long-term energy costs to consumers by making every effort to put (or keep) public utilities in public hands.
    • Legalize Power Purchasing Agreements (PPAs), so that West Virginians can benefit from our energy generating resources.  A PPA is a contract between a third party developer and a landowner, which allows the developer to install, operate and own the energy generation facility while the landowner purchases electricity at a lower price from the same facility. West Virginia is one of only a handful of states that explicitly forbids third-party ownership of electricity generating facilities. Allowing PPAs would result in an increase in solar generation in West Virginia, leading to customer savings and creating solar installation jobs.
    • Appoint new members to the Environmental Quality Board (EQB) who value environmental justice, and who will place the needs of our communities over the greed of out-of-state millionaires, as terms for current board members end.
      • Make advocates available to help citizens appeal permits that affect them and their communities.
      • Assure the appeals process is available to poor people–it is currently costly and complex.
      • Work with the political corruption division of the state police to ensure the “quasi judicial” EQB board is not simply doing the bidding of industry. “Quasi-judicial” should not mean “quasi-justice.”
    • Start a process to reform and reimagine the utility business model. Forward-thinking policy makers have embarked on this path, notably New York’s Reforming the Energy Vision (NY-REV) process. The West Virginia Public Service Commission will initiate such a process and coordinate with other state government agencies to shift utilities toward more efficient models that are better suited to serve rural communities instead of exploiting them for profit.
    • Improve efforts to protect the land and ecosystems connected to our water. Acquire direct funding for reforestation, revegetation and habitat enhancement (preservation of native species of flora); and create a healthy soils initiative through improving government agencies, incentives for building soils and healthy ecosystems and research/education.

How We Pay For It

This plan will keep our wealth here, create 8,700 energy jobs,  fund the economy of our future, and ensure industry executives pay for every mess they make, instead of allowing them to shift their costs onto communities and hard working families. (See also our plans to End Election Buying and Prosecute Corporate Corruption.)


Total: $176 million annually

Severance tax revenue is accounted for in the Mountaineer Service Corps plan.

Debt securities resulting from eliminating self bonding for industry will be held by the State Bank, so we’ll be well-positioned to prevent industry executives from shifting costs onto working families and impacted communities.


$176 million annually

Every one of our New Deal plans was written by West Virginians.

  • Our volunteers asked 11,000 of their neighbors, “What would you do if you were Governor?”
  • Our candidates attended 197 Town Halls, taking notes in community centers, church basements, union halls, and small businesses.
  • Educators met after work to start sketching out their perfect school.
  • Nurses traded ideas on the picket line.
  • Our county and constituency captains ratified a first platform in the fall of 2019 and updated it in the spring of 2020 to reflect the current pandemic.

But the legacy of this New Deal dates back to John Brown and Mother Jones, to the United Mine Workers of America and the suffragettes, to the Poor People’s Movement and the CIO.

No one politician or slate of candidates can win this plan alone. We need you.

If you have an idea for how to make this plan stronger, or if you would like to lend a hand to win it, contact our candidate for Governor Stephen Smith at

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Join the Movement

We have hundreds of volunteers in every corner of the state, and a growing slate of candidates who will need our help in 2022. It will take 1,000 leaders not 1 to win a West Virginia that works for all of us.