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Senate passes bill offering a tax break for aging coal-fired power plants

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state Senate unanimously passed a bill providing a tax break for coal-fired power plants.

Senate Bill 793 passed 34-0 and now goes to the House of Delegates. A similar bill already passed out of the House Energy Committee earlier this session but went no farther.

Under the bill, certain coal-fired plants could be taxed at a rate of 45 percent of their capacity.

During a Senate floor session on Tuesday, the only question that arose about the bill was posed by Senator Corey Palumbo, D-Kanawha.

He asked about what would happen to the taxes deferred by a power plant if it couldn’t survive.

“What would our ability be to recapture that money if a plant closed?” Palumbo asked.

Operators seeking the tax relief would promise to keep the power plant open until 2025. If not, the bill says, any business and occupation tax savings achieved in the interim would have to be remitted back to the state.

Palumbo asked what would happen if an affected power plant were to file for bankruptcy. The answer in that case is, the state would have to file a claim.

Last summer, analysts at Moody’s predicted that use of thermal coal for U.S. power generation could fall to as little as 11 percent by 2030. That’s largely because as aging coal-fired plants go offline they are being replaced by natural gas-fired plants.

The bill is aimed at providing some relief to help some of those plants survive a little longer.

State revenue officials have said the tax cut could amount to $16 million.

West Virginia Coal Association President Chris Hamilton has said the organization favors the legislation.

Last summer, the Legislature passed a bill aimed specifically at providing relief for financially-troubled Pleasants Power Station.

This one, advocates have said, might particularly help the Mount Storm Generating Station, operated by Dominion Energy in Grant County.

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