west virginia

West Virginia: First State to Repeal Renewable Energy Law

West Virginia: First State to Repeal Renewable Energy Law

Lisa Markowski for Zondits

Coal-rich West Virginia is following in the footsteps of Florida, Ohio, and Indiana by striking down legislation supporting clean energy. Earlier this week West Virginia’s Democratic governor, Earl Ray Tomblin, signed a bill to repeal a 2009 law that required utilities in that state to generate 25% of their power from renewable sources by 2025. The repeal act was almost unanimously supported in the state House and Senate in their first act of legislation after Republicans regained control in last November’s elections.

While the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and others on the right consider it a victory, many environmental activists view the repealing of the law as largely symbolic. The broadly structured portfolio would only have affected those utilities with more than 30,000 users and included at least one dubious element: accepting the burning of tires as a source of renewable energy. As the second-largest producer of coal in the US, West Virginia has a history of resisting the growth of renewables. In 2014, it was one of 12 states to sue the EPA over its Clean Power Plan, fearing that the program would cost coal miners their jobs. The Clean Power Plan calls for states to reduce their carbon emissions over the next 15 years.

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Score one for ALEC: West Virginia is first state to repeal a renewable energy standard

Grist, February 5, 2015

This week, West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) signed a bill repealing the state’s renewable energy standard, which would have required major utilities to get at least 25 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2025.

It’s a clear win for right-wing activists, led by the corporate-backed American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). They’ve been campaigning for years to roll back state-level renewable standards, mostly without success. But last year, they managed to freeze Ohio’s renewable standard at a less-than-ambitious level. And now they’ve had their first total success — a complete rollback of a renewable portfolio standard.

Ironically, it was under Tomblin’s tenure as Senate president that the standard was first passed. The West Virginia Coal Association, an industry trade group, also supported the legislation back in 2009 — and even helped write it — but has since turned against it, citing increased regulation of the coal industry. “We understand economic drivers and factors change over time, and the Act as it was passed in 2009 is no longer beneficial for our state,” Tomblin said. (Politics also change: West Virginia, once a blue state, is becoming increasingly Republican, and environmental regulation has, since 2009, become even more anathema to the GOP. In the state legislature, Republicans have put bolstering the state’s coal industry’s high on their 2015 agenda.)

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