Gov. Jim Justice has signed into law a bill that aims to make it easier for state environmental regulators to fast-track projects supported by a massive influx of federal infrastructure funding.
Senate Bill 439 allows the Department of Environmental Protection to combine the design and construction elements of a project into a single contract in a design-build pilot program. Design-build projects combine design and construction services under one contracting entity.
Signed into law by Justice Thursday, SB 439 sets a $50 million cap for design-build delivery projects awarded under the measure.
DEP Deputy Secretary Scott Mandirola told lawmakers SB 439 could help his agency capitalize faster on incoming federal infrastructure funding. The agency anticipates receipt of over $1 billion in funding for cleaning up abandoned mine land over the next decade-plus, and additional funding for sewer projects and addressing emerging contaminants.
Mandirola also noted the state has allocated roughly $25 million granted through the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act for plugging orphaned gas and oil wells.
DEP leaders have told lawmakers that agency understaffing has made it a challenge to execute plugging under the law.
One DEP response to understaffing has been contracting out projects to private industry, Mandirola has told legislators, noting the agency has relied on outside contractors to plug wells with the infrastructure law funding.
Under SB 439, the DEP will prepare an invitation for bids for pre-qualified design-builders, which must provide procedures to be followed for submitting bids and making awards, as well as a proposed time schedule commitment and completion of the design-build contract.
The legislation requires the DEP to submit annual reports to the Joint Government and Finance Committee evaluating the DEP’s experience under the program with each design-build project completed.
SB 439’s provisions expire at the end of 2025.
Effective from passage, the legislation faced little opposition, passing the House of Delegates in an 88-3 vote before the Senate signed off on it in a 32-0 tally.
Mike Tony covers energy and the environment. Reach him at 304-348-1236 or email@example.com. Follow @Mike__Tony on Twitter.