Repealing the Alternative & Renewable Energy Portfolio Act Passes in the House
Emotions were high in the House Chamber Thursday as House Bill 2001 was on its third reading and up for a vote.
Fireworks went off in the House Chamber as Delegates discussed whether or not to pass House Bill 2001. By the end, more than half of the Democrats chose to support the bill, but not all of them agreed quietly.
If passed, utility companies would no longer be required to make 25% of their energy come from renewable energy sources like solar or wind. This would instead put all the energy output back on coal, potentially creating more jobs and bring more money back in the state.
Delegate Joshua Nelson brought into perspective the jobs lost since the House Bill 103 was passed in 2009; the bill originally behind making the rule.
“Since 2012, six plants have shut down, partially due to anticipation from increased scrutiny, from bills like this, and from the EPA, and from the anti-coal, anti-coal miner climate that exists in Washington, DC.," said Nelson, "From 2011 to 2014, we have lost 7,000 coal jobs in the state of West Virginia, and that is completely unacceptable, and almost solely due to market manipulation.”
Tensions arose when Delegate Nancy Guthrie stood to call out those in favor of the bill, saying it was a step backward for the state.
“What I can’t understand is why this body that wants to make a name for itself, that wants to move this state forward, isn’t embracing every possible energy source at our finger tips," said Guthrie, "In the Eastern panhandle, we have geothermal that we could be tapping into; we have an abundance supply of water. People who are using solar, our municipalities included, are saving on their energy costs, and a lot of those municipalities were hard pressed to save the light bill. Customers are saving money, because they’ve incorporated solar into their portfolio and are selling back. So rates are coming down for those folks who are smart enough to get away from just one source. We are going to wear coal around our neck, like a yoke that will drag all of us down.”
Republican Delegates were outraged and deeply offended by Guthrie’s statements.
“We’re talking about this black rock right here," said Delegate Gary Howell, "The gentlelady from Kanawha County said that this is a yoke hanging around the neck of West Virginia, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and this is made out of carbon, and there’s something else made out of carbon and that’s diamond. I see this as the diamond necklace hanging around the neck of West Virginia.”
Delegate Randy Smith stood to fight back against anyone opposed to repealing the bill. He said that after the bill was passed six years ago, then Governor Joe Manchin took it to Washington to show it off.
“What did that say to the coal miners in the state of West Virginia," asked Smith, "what did that tell us, me, my colleagues here, there’s a lot of us here, the retired coal miners, or laid off coal miners, or ones going into different fields? What did this bill say to us coal miners? Did it say we’re behind you, we got your back? No, that’s not what it said, it said, we’re on your side, Mr. President. And I can tell you one thing right now, I’m not on his side, and I’m glad that the lot of you have woke up and seen just what this is worth. It’s a slap in the face to us coal miners.”
Delegate John Shott was one of the last to speak. He spoke to both sides saying this bill would not hold the state down.
“A lot was mentioned earlier about our failure to diversify. Folks, if we pass this bill, there’s nobody going to put handcuffs on us and say you can’t diversify," noted Shott, "We will diversify as the market allows, and we can protect our folks, especially our disabled, our elderly, those on fixed incomes, without burdening them with an unneeded expense that the restrictions, the mandates of this act now put on them.”
House Bill 2001 was passed 95 to 4.