CHARLESTON – Both houses of the West Virginia Legislature overwhelmingly have passed a bill to repeal a 2010 energy law.
The House of Delegates voted 95-4 to repeal the Alternative and Renewable Energy Portfolio Act, which was championed by former Gov. Joe Manchin. The state Senate voted 33-0 to repeal the act.
Because the House and Senate bills are slightly different, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin is waiting for the Legislature to agree on a final version.
The Senate on Jan. 27 voted to pass the House version of the bill 33-0 to send to the governor. Once he gets a copy of the final bill, the governor has five days (excluding Sunday) to review and sign the bill.
“A member of the Legislature for more than 40 years, the governor understands a number of proposals are discussed as part of the legislative process,” Tomblin spokesman Chris Stadelman said. “Once he receives the final bill, he and his staff will evaluate the legislation and look at proposed changes to determine what is in the best interest of all West Virginians.
“If the bill continues to include provisions for net metering and extension of tax credits related to alternative energy, it is likely the governor will sign the bill.”
Last week leading up to the votes, the mirror legislation of House Bill 2001 and Senate Bill 1 created controversy in both houses.
In the House of Delegates, House Minority Leader Tim Miley (D-Harrison) delivered a letter to new House Speaker Tim Armstead (R-Kanawha) on Jan. 16 requesting an Economic Impact Statement on the repeal.
“This legislation has been touted by many members of the Legislature and coal industry representatives as a vital jobs-saving bill for the coal industry,” Miley, the former speaker, said. “It has also been asserted that repealing this legislation would result in reduced electricity rates for residents and businesses around our state.”
Miley suggested to Armstead that the new Republican leadership take advantage of newly passed House Rule 95 and create an Economic Impact Statement for HB2001 that would repeal the 2009 law that actually was passed in 2010.
The 2010 legislation tells West Virginia utilities what percentage of alternative fuels they must use to generate electricity. It is 10 percent this year, 15 percent by 2020 and 25 percent by 2025.
Republicans call that law – pushed by Manchin – as “Cap and Trade.” The law does not cap carbon emissions, but it does cap the percentage of coal generated energy and allow for the trading of credits.
Miley said lawmakers should know whether this legislation would “crush the hopes and dreams” of out-of-work miners and their families.
“It’s important to know whether the repeal of the Alternative and Renewable Energy Portfolio Act accomplishes meaningful results, or whether the repeal of this legislation is mere campaign fluff,” Miley wrote.
In his Jan. 20 response, Armstead said he doesn’t believe an Economic Impact Statement is necessary for this bill.
“The adverse consequences of the Cap and Trade legislation passed five years ago are now obvious, and I do not believe that an ES is needed in order to effectively evaluate the repeal of this Act,” he wrote to Miley.
Armstead goes on to say coal industry officials have expressed the desire to have the act repealed.
“I find it difficult to understand why now, when the coal industry representatives and various business groups are calling for the reversal of this legislation due to their own personal experiences with the Act over the past five and one half years, some now desire to delay efforts to aid our ailing energy industry and the men and women who work in this industry each day,” the speaker writes.
A similar fight took place in the state Senate as former Senate President Jeff Kessler (D-Marshall) and current President Bill Cole (R-Mercer) butted heads.
Kessler, now the Senate Minority Leader, called for an Economic Impact Statement of Senate Bill 1, the mirror legislation to HB2001.
“Mr. President, I would suggest to you as the leader of the body that that may be a bill that is a prime opportunity for us to look at a job impact statement of that bill,” Kessler said, adding that he supports SB1. “I think its important and I’m concerned Mr. President if we pass this bill that we look at the total job impact it may create.
“And, I know the objective is to create more coal jobs. I’m all for that.”
Like Armstead at the other end of the state Capitol, Cole doesn’t think the bill needs the study.
“I think that we have a study-it-to-death mentality in West Virginia and I want to get away from that,” Cole said.