West Virginia Coal Association president talks pending legislation, congressional field hearing
The West Virginia Coal Association will keep tabs on several bills relevant to the industry during the remaining weeks of this year’s legislative session, according to President Chris Hamilton.
House Bill 3133 is expected to incentivize greater coal production in the state, and House Bill 3303 would reactivate the state Office of Coalfield Community Development.
HB 3133 would create a credit against the severance tax to encourage private companies to make infrastructure improvements to highways, roads and bridges in the state.
“It would allow a tax credit for infrastructure development,” Hamilton said. “It would apply to all roads, even roads that require partnership with the [Division] of Highways like small access roads, as well as conveyor belt systems and certain production equipment.”
The Office of Coalfield Community Development has “virtually been dormant” for several years, Hamilton said.
“We’d like to see that reactivated and repurposed to help the industry with some of its manpower needs by working with WorkForce West Virginia and the Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training to help recruit and retrain working miners,” he said.
A companion bill, Senate Bill 157, is currently before the Senate Finance Committee.
Hamilton recently addressed the U.S. House Ways and Committee during a congressional field hearing held in Grant County.
He offered several proposals aimed at ensuring the long-term stability of the nation’s electrical grid.
“You will find a common thread listening to our residents, workers and companies doing business here in West Virginia,” Hamilton said. “Supply chain disruptions, soaring home heating bills, the high price of gasoline at the pumps and a seemingly never-ending global energy crisis reflect one thing: Misguided energy policies from Washington, D.C.”
Hamilton went on to recommend several steps that could be taken at the federal level, starting with the creation of a “baseload reliability tax credit.”
The credit would offer “the same level of tax credits” to coal-fired electrical generation facilities as currently exist for wind and solar generation.
“The idea is to re-shuffle the available credits that extend to wind and solar projects so that a portion, in our view a third, of those credits also extend to coal-fired and fossil fuel-fired generation based on the reliability aspect of baseload power,” he said.
The Coal Association is working with the office of U.S. Rep. Carol Miller, R-W.Va., to develop legislation to create the credit, Hamilton said.
“We’ll hopeful that she’ll be able to introduce that sometime this year,” he said. “One of the things that is really important is that we help our existing coal fleet here in West Virginia so that the existing coal fleet can improve its overall efficiency.”
Other suggestions Hamilton made include: Stopping the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s “regulatory assault on fossil energy”; enhancing rail service oversight; “reining in” the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service; implementing a federal coal leasing program; and expanding coal exports.
As of 2020, coal-fired electric power plants accounted for 88% of West Virginia’s electricity net generation. Renewable energy resources — primarily hydroelectric power and wind energy — contributed almost 6% and natural gas provided more than 3%, according to information from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
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- On February 21, 2023