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As the only law review in our state, the West Virginia Law Review takes seriously its obligation to serve both academia and our state’s legal community. We serve those interests by publishing articles that are nationally relevant along with articles that address issues in West Virginia. Historically, this Law Review has published special issues such as the National Coal Issue and the Energy and Sustainability Issue, reflecting the unquestioned importance of those areas of law to our state. However, we recognize that our state’s legal community is well-served by academic analysis of all areas of law. We also recognize that research specific to West Virginia can be difficult to find through major commercial avenues. As such, Volume 117 of the West Virginia Law Review is proud to launch the West Virginia Law Review Online.

The Switch That Caused a Storm: Consolidating West Virginia's Surface Mining and Water Protection Programs

Two main statutes in the United States govern the processes for treating and discharging water that has been affected by coal mining: the Clean Water Act (CWA) 1 and the Surface Mine Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA). 2 The CWA governs the discharge of that water from a point source into waters of the United States, 3 and the SMCRA governs the process of surface mining and treating the water that comes into contact with the disturbed area. 4

In 1984, the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources consolidated the surface mine and water protection programs into one scheme for coal mining facilities.5 This paper argues that the consolidation of these two regulatory programs brought forth a storm of negative effects the state is still facing today.  Specifically, this paper argues that the switch caused an inconsistency in application of the regulations across industries and an inconsistency in interpretation between federal and state governments.

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West Virginia Legislature Punts Livestock Living Conditions Issues to State Board

In West Virginia, chickens outnumber people almost eight to one. 1 Unfortunately for West Virginians, however, the creation of a state board in 2010 greatly reduced state citizens’ say in how those chickens live. 2 This might not matter all that much if all chickens roosted in lovely red barns 3 and were raised by farmers with at least as much concern for animal well-being as for personal profit. Nationwide, because this balance is distinctly not the case, several confinement practices—including the confinement of chickens to battery cages—have been questioned and banned in a handful of states. 4

If West Virginians were to decide that they too opposed the confinement of chickens or other livestock, they now have an additional burden above and beyond soliciting their state representatives to address the issue. Citizens either must convince the West Virginia Livestock Care Standards Board to promulgate new rules or convince the state legislature to bypass the board, something quite unlikely to happen given how contentious confinement improvements are; indeed, some have asserted that Livestock Care Standards Boards were created for the distinct purpose of removing power from the public to make laws on this subject matter. 5 This Essay argues that Livestock Care Standards Boards unnecessarily remove power from the public because (1) consumer autonomy should trump farmer autonomy, (2) confinement issues evoke more than merely irrational attention, and (3) consumers are capable of making the primarily economic assessment involved in improving livestock living conditions.

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Emergence from Civil Death: The Evolution of Expungement in West Virginia

Ninety-two million Americans have a criminal record—nearly one in three adults. 1 This criminal record can include an arrest that did not lead to a conviction, a conviction for which the person did not serve time in prison, or a conviction for a non-violent crime. 2 All can have a similar impact on an individual’s job prospects and on local economies. Incarcerating adult Americans costs a combined $68 billion annually at the local, state, and federal levels. 3 The cost of lost wages and lost financial contributions to society by ex-offenders is even higher.

This financially immobilized population of former offenders may be permanently unemployable. In response, a majority of states have created statutes to permit select offenders a new chance. 4 These states grant that after a waiting period and good behavior, ex-offenders may apply to have their convictions sealed or “set aside.” 5 These expungements remove the conviction from public records, lifting the stigma and the resulting barriers to employment. 6

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