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More Upset Over Energy in the House Chamber

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West Virginia Legislative Services

A controversial bill that gives employers some immunity from lawsuits over work place accidents is off the agenda for the House Judiciary committee for now. Committee chairman, John Shott, announced today that stakeholders are meeting to find some agreement to the bill. House Bill 2011 deals with the issue of deliberate intent.  It was the subject of a public hearing earlier this week.

Friday on the House Floor, another bill relating to energy was the center of attention, including an amendment that caused some concern from Democrats.

In the House Chamber, House Bill 2201 was up for its third reading but with pending amendments for the chamber to consider.

The bill requires the Public Service Commission to adopt certain net-metering and interconnection rules and standards. Net-metering is a practice already used in the state. Individuals who own their own personal source of electricity, things like solar panels or wind turbines, send the extra electricity they generate back to the grid for sale to other customers. Their electric company would in turn give the client a credit to use later, saving them on future electric costs.

The first amendment to the bill was proposed by Delegate Woody Ireland, chair of the House Energy Committee. He suggested two provisions be added, one to include some new safety provisions for lineman, and the other allowing non-profits to receive energy credits from companies who own and operate renewable energy equipment on their property.

Ireland’s amendments passed unanimously, but the same could not be said for an amendment proposed by Delegate Michael Folk of Berkeley County.

“Mr. Speaker," said Folk, "this simply adds language that states the commission shall assure that any net-metering tariff does create a cross-subsidization between customers of one class.”

What Folk means is if a utility company must upgrade their system to comply with net-metering standards, the costs for those upgrades cannot be passed on to rate paying customers who do not participate in the net metering program.

“For instance, over 99% of our customers are not net-metering customers," explained Folk, "Those people by very definition, and practice of what is done today, are subsidizing the net-metering customers.”

This brought some concern from Delegate Stephen Skinner, who questioned why an amendment like this, was never discussed in committee.

“We’re bringing the committee work to this chamber, and we’ve had no testimony about it, and we don’t know what the consequences are," noted Skinner, "We can’t predict those consequences. One of the things that my good friend, the Chair of the Judiciary has said constantly over the last few years is we need to look out for unintended consequences. And we don’t even have the information right now to understand what this means. We’re adding a new term to code that hasn’t been defined. We’re letting government get further involved in the actions of the PSC. It doesn’t make sense for us to amend this at this time when we don’t know what it means."

Other Democrats backed Skinner’s proposal, but in the end, the amendment won the vote. John Shott is the House Judiciary Chair.

“Although I generally agree with the policy of the committee doing all the legwork, this particular case, this amendment does not make an extreme change to the purpose of the bill," said Folk, "It basically is an expression of our policy that as this, we assume net-metering will grow across the state, and it’s basically a policy of this body that growth not be on the backs of non-net-metering customers that the customer that benefits from the net-metering basically pays the fair price of the net-metering. We’re not telling the commission how to do that. We’re simply saying, you as the experts, you make sure that this doesn’t happen."

Delegate Folk’s amendment passed 63 to 33. The bill itself, House Bill 2201, passed.


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