CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Several new members of the now Republican-controlled House of Delegates made good on a campaign promise Thursday by voting to repeal the state’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Act, referred to many of them as the ‘cap-and-trade’ law.
“If this bill is going to work or not—to get coal miners back to work—if it has a chance, I will vote for this bill,” said veteran Delegate Justin Marcum (D-Mingo). “We don’t know if it’s going to work, but if there’s that slight hint that one coal miner in the state of West Virginia is going to get his job back, I support this bill.”
Similar comments were made by about a dozen delegates who discussed the bill for nearly an hour before the 95-4 vote. The state Senate passed an almost identical bill 33-0 Wednesday.
The 2009 law, which requires electric utilities use an increasing amount of energy sources other than coal over the next few decades, was targeted in last year’s election by candidates claiming it was curbing coal mining jobs and at the root of possible increases in electric bills.
Nancy Guthrie (D-Kanawha) was one of four delegates to vote against the bill Thursday calling itl nothing more than political theater. She said the state’s leaders must push diversification of the economy.
“We are running out of coal, it’s that’s simple. That’s why we have so many layoffs in the coalfields,” Guthrie said. “We are going to wear coal around our neck like a yoke that will drag all of us down.”
Delegate Marty Gearheart said the energy portfolio act was bad from the beginning when then-Gov. Joe Manchin introduced it six years ago.
“We told the country that our product was bad, coal was bad,” he said. “We told West Virginians that coal was so bad we should all pay more for a less efficient source of power.”
The state’s largest utilities have said they had no problems meeting the 2015 requirements of the law and those haven’t caused rates to go up. But House Judiciary Committee chairman John Shott (R-Mercer) said the 2025 requirements might be a different story. Shott pointed out smaller electric companies and co-ops that serve several communities across West Virginia may have to raise rates because they purchase their power from the larger companies. Shott said in 10 years the state’s population projects to be even older.
“Those are the folks are going to have to pay these increased costs if we don’t repeal this act, and those are the folks we need to protect as well as our coal miners,” Shott said.
It remains to be seen whether the House or Senate version of the bill ultimately makes it to the governor’s desk.