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Energy Production as Culture War

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There’s nothing Republicans won’t turn into a full culture war these days, as this is really all they have. That includes in West Virginia, where the state legislature is considering using that small government mentality to…..force energy producers to keep coal use at levels at least as high as that of 2019

The state Senate Energy, Industry and Mining Committee heard opposing perspectives at its meeting Thursday from coal industry and electric utility representatives on a bill it’s considering designed to keep West Virginia’s dwindling fleet of coal plants operating as long as possible by requiring in-state power producers to maintain 2019 coal consumption levels.

Senate Bill 542 would require power producers to file compliance plans every three years with the Public Energy Authority specifying their fuel supply and how 2019 coal consumption levels would be maintained.

West Virginia Coal Association and United Mine Workers of America representatives enthusiastically endorsed the bill to the committee, but representatives from Appalachian Power, FirstEnergy and Dominion Energy as well as state Public Service Commission Chairman Charlotte Lane all expressed reservations with the bill.

The committee opted to hold off taking action on the bill, and Sen. Randy Smith, R-Tucker, committee chair, recommended that the stakeholders present meet with Sen. Rupie Phillips, R-Logan, committee vice chair and sole sponsor of bill, to detail concerns further with an eye toward a potential compromise.

Chris Hamilton, president of the West Virginia Coal Association, praised the bill, arguing it was needed to support the state’s struggling coal industry.

The legislative findings in the bill state that West Virginia coal shipments have been reduced from 162 coal plants a decade ago to only 43 plants currently and that 18 coal-fired electric units have been forced to close.

Hamilton estimated that coal is still responsible for about 20% of the state’s economy and referenced a warning from Appalachian Power and Wheeling Power in a recent rate case that they may close the Mitchell coal-fired generating facility in Marshall County in 2028, 12 years ahead of schedule, if the companies choose to retire the plant rather than make an additional investment to ensure that the plant complies with federal guidelines limiting wastewater to continue operating beyond that year.

Any Republicans claims to believe in the “free market” are complete bullshit and always have been. The free market is only deified when it produces results supported by their policy positons. Otherwise, we need big government interventions to subsidize losing industries and of course own the libs. Which after all is the real point.

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