Ken Ward had an interesting post over at Coal Tattoo this afternoon. In a comment under my last post, Mary Wildfire pointed out that the WV Legislature was in the process of dropping more of our tax money on the WV coal industry. Ken covers just that topic in his Coal Tattoo post.
It seems that the House Energy, Industry and Mining Committee just passed that bill out today. Here’s Ken’s account:
Interestingly enough, while I was thinking about this blog post this morning, I also listened in to a bit of the discussion at the West Virginia Senate’s Energy, Industry and Mining Committee about a little piece of legislation called HB 3072. The purpose of the bill is “to provide a tax credit to coal producers who sell coal to taxpayers who increase their consumption of West Virginia coal in this state for the purpose of increasing coal production and coal related employment in West Virginia.“
The state Tax Department, in a fiscal note on the legislation, had this to say about what the tax break would cost the state:
According to our interpretation, the amount of the proposed tax credit may vary substantially from one year to the next. Due to the expected fluctuation in the amount of available tax credit, we are unable to accurately estimate to potential annual reduction in either the General Revenue Fund or local Severance Tax funds resulting from use of the proposed tax credit. However, the reduction could be significant given the volume of coal potentially consumed in West Virginia.
In a recent blog post, the West Virginia Center for Budget and Policy raised the question, Do Coal Companies Need Another Tax Subsidy? and came up with this answer:
… The Senate should proceed with extreme caution if they plan to consider this bill. It doesn’t seem to accomplish its stated purpose and there seems to be all kinds of wiggle room that would essentially being giving free money away at a time when we are cutting vital program like higher education and domestic violence prevention.
Of course, such recommendations didn’t really get the attention of West Virginia lawmakers. During today’s committee meeting, Sen. Ron Stollings, D-Boone, talked about being sure that the Legislature does “anything to help mine more West Virginia coal.”
The bill appears to be a giveaway to the coal industry based on how much coal they sell primarily to WV’s Ohio-based power companies to generate electricity. Considering that about 95% of WV’s electricity comes from coal, that will be a very big tax credit taken directly from the state’s tax revenue. And there is apparently nothing in the bill that requires the coal industry to pass along their tax credit to their power plant customers nor is there any requirement that the tax giveaway be passed on to electricity consumers.
So this Legislature, which has done nothing about building a stronger WV energy economy with investments in renewable power and energy efficiency, wants to keep our state mired in an increasingly expensive and obsolete power generation technology.
Of course, Bill Raney, President of the WV Coal Association, voiced coal’s 150 year old mantra in WV: “We’ll take as much as you’ll give us” — of WV taxpayers’ money.