West Virginia agriculture bill stokes fears about pesticide-spewing logging facility

Feb 13, 2024, 1:53 PM

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A West Virginia bill approved by the House of Delegates on Tuesday that limits counties from regulating agricultural operations is stoking fears that a logging company could resurrect plans to build a toxic-spewing fumigation facility in the picturesque Allegheny Mountains.

The House voted 84-16 to approve the bill that previously passed the state Senate. Both chambers have Republican supermajorities. The bill would bar counties from usurping state law on agricultural operations, including revoking such county regulations that were previously adopted.

The bill “is really just a backdoor way for non-local, corporate entities to build whatever they want, wherever they want, whenever they want, regardless of the impact on local communities,” said Hardy County resident John Rosato.

Last May, Allegheny Wood Products withdrew an application for a state air permit to build a facility off U.S. Route 48 in the Hardy County community of Baker after residents bombarded state regulators with opposition. At the time, the county commission said the company’s efforts would have faced huge hurdles locally.

The facility would treat logs before they are shipped overseas. Prior to the company backing down, the state Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Air Quality said it tentatively planned to issue the permit that would let the facility emit up to nearly 10 tons (9.07 metric tons) of the pesticide methyl bromide into the atmosphere each year.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, methyl bromide can cause lung disease, convulsions, comas and ultimately death. It is three times heavier than air and can accumulate in poorly ventilated or low-lying areas and remain in the air for days under adverse conditions.

The bill doesn’t specifically address the fumigation facility, but it bans counties from prohibiting the purchase or restricting the use of any federal or state-registered pesticide, herbicide or insecticide.

“This bill is of specific interest to many Hardy County residents because it contains language that would explicitly address a situation specific to Hardy County,” county planner Melissa Scott wrote in an email to The Associated Press.

It’s unknown whether Allegheny Wood Products, which has eight sawmills in the state, wants to resume its efforts to obtain an air permit. It would be required to submit a new application. A company official didn’t immediately respond to an email and a phone message left by the AP.

It also wasn’t known whether Republican Gov. Jim Justice plans to sign the bill. A spokesperson for the governor didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday. The governor’s family owns dozens of businesses, including coal and agriculture. According to the governor’s official website, Justice’s companies farm more than 50,000 acres (20,200 hectares) of corn, wheat, and soybeans in West Virginia and three other states.

Also under the bill, county commissions also would be barred from adopting ordinances that regulate buildings on agricultural land or operations. Hardy County is along the Virginia line in the heart of the state’s poultry industry and is less than a two hours’ drive from Washington, D.C.

Scott said there is plenty of confusion about the bill’s purpose.

“Counties are looking at the worst-case scenario of how this law could be legally applied,” in particular the “very broad” language relating to agriculture, she said. “The outcome could be bleak when it comes to existing local processes that protect citizens and small farmers.”

In recent years, lawmakers expanded agriculture definitions to encompass what Scott called “nearly any activity taking place on any rural land.”

“There is no doubt that this (latest) bill removes county powers to regulate activities relating to agricultural activities, but the devil is in the details,” she said. “What activities are considered ‘related to agricultural operations’? I can say for sure that under the current definitions, this is much more than what most West Virginians think of as agriculture.”

United States News

Associated Press

OJ Simpson has been cremated, estate attorney in Las Vegas says. No public memorial is planned

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Former football star and celebrity criminal defendant O.J. Simpson was cremated Wednesday, the lawyer handling his estate said following his death last week at home in Las Vegas at age 76. Attorney Malcolm LaVergne told The Associated Press he was present, along with unspecified other people, for the morning event at […]

21 minutes ago

Associated Press

Kentucky lawmaker says he wants to renew efforts targeting DEI initiatives on college campuses

A Republican lawmaker has signaled plans to mount another effort to limit diversity, equity and inclusion practices at Kentucky’s public universities after GOP supermajorities failed to resolve differences on the issue during the recently ended legislative session. Kentucky lawmakers will convene again in January, and state Sen. Mike Wilson said he hopes lawmakers use the […]

26 minutes ago

Associated Press

North Carolina University system considers policy change that could cut diversity staff

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The future of diversity, equity and inclusion staff jobs in North Carolina’s public university system could be at stake as a series of votes loom on a key policy’s potential repeal. The Committee on University Governance within the University of North Carolina Board of Governors that oversees 17 schools, was poised […]

56 minutes ago

Associated Press

Sweeping gun legislation awaits final votes as Maine lawmakers near adjournment

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — The Maine Legislature moved in fits and starts toward adjournment on Wednesday, with unfinished business including final votes on a series of gun safety bills that were introduced after the deadliest shooting in state history last fall. The Senate was awaiting an enactment vote on the governor’s gun safety proposals that […]

1 hour ago

Associated Press

How many ballerinas can dance on tiptoes in one place? A world record 353 at New York’s Plaza Hotel

NEW YORK (AP) — Hundreds of young dancers in white tutus and tightly coiffed hair gathered in New York’s Plaza Hotel on Wednesday to break the world record for dancing on pointe in one place. The spectacle was organized by Youth America Grand Prix, a ballet scholarship program that is celebrating its 25th anniversary with […]

1 hour ago

Associated Press

Lab chief faces sentencing in Michigan 12 years after fatal US meningitis outbreak

HOWELL, Mich. (AP) — Days after a routine injection to ease back pain, Donna Kruzich and a friend drove across the border to Canada in 2012 to see end-of-summer theater in Stratford, Ontario. The 78-year-old Michigan woman suddenly became ill and returned home. By early October, she was dead. “Most of the time she could […]

2 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


DISC Desert Institute for Spine Care

Sciatica pain is treatable but surgery may be required

Sciatica pain is one of the most common ailments a person can face, and if not taken seriously, it could become one of the most harmful.


Fiesta Bowl Foundation

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade is excitingly upon us

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe is upon us! The attraction honors Arizona and the history of the game.

(KTAR News Graphic)...

Boys & Girls Clubs

KTAR launches online holiday auction benefitting Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley

KTAR is teaming up with The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley for a holiday auction benefitting thousands of Valley kids.

West Virginia agriculture bill stokes fears about pesticide-spewing logging facility