West Virginia’s Senate and House of Delegates have voted to repeal the state’s five-year-old statute requiring energy producers to increase the amount of alternative fuels used by 15 percent by 2020 and 25 percent by 2015.
West Virginia thus became the first state whose legislature has voted to repeal its renewable energy mandates.
Enacted in 2009, West Virginia’s Alternative and Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard initially had broad support, but rising electricity prices and political fallout from the Obama administration’s regulatory crackdown on coal undermined support for the statute, leading to the January 21 repeal vote.
‘Hanging by a Thread’
“The original intent of this legislation was to increase the use of renewable fuels in the state,” said Chris Hamilton, chairman of the West Virginia Business & Industry Council, in a press statement. “While this may sound like a good thing on the surface, the Obama administration’s ‘war on coal’ over the past [six] years has left West Virginia’s coal industry—and economy—hanging by a thread. EPA policies have served to reduce state coal production by more than 30 percent in recent years and put thousands of miners out of work.”
“While our federal government has been picking energy winners and losers, it doesn’t make sense for the state of West Virginia to work against its economic interests,” Hamilton added. “If state power companies have to increase the use of renewables in their fuels mix, it will certainly result in higher home and business electric rates and the further decline of West Virginia coal jobs, taxes, and our overall economy.”
The House and Senate passed different versions of the bill, and the two will be merged before being sent to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) for his signature.
Supporters of renewable energy mandates expressed displeasure at the legislature’s action, blaming two large utilities, American Electric Power and FirstEnergy, for the repeal. However, the bill does preserve the state’s net metering program, supported by the solar power industry because it provides credits for owners of solar energy systems for electricity added to the system’s grid.
‘No Tangible Environmental Benefits’
“West Virginia has become the latest state to roll back its renewable fuels mandate. These mandates have been driving up electricity prices for consumers and have produced no tangible environmental benefits across the country. Now states are finally coming to their senses about them,” said John Nothdurft, director of government relations at the Chicago-based Heartland institute, which publishes Environment & Climate News.
“I expect more states to follow the lead of Ohio and West Virginia by freezing or eliminating these costly mandates,” he added. “This is not about choosing one source of energy over another; this is about allowing all sources of energy—from hydropower to solar power to coal—to compete.”