January 20, 2012

West Virginia: House GOP to fire back at W.Va. “cap-and-trade” bill

One of the major legislative priorities for state Republican delegates this year will be the repeal of former Gov. Joe Manchin's alternative and renewable energy portfolio standard.

GOP representatives have introduced a bill repealing all but the legislative findings of the Alternative and Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard. The bill was originally introduced by Manchin in his 2009 State of the State Address.
"Beginning in 2015, at least 10 percent of the electric energy sold to electric customers must be generated by alternative or renewable energy sources," Manchin said. "And, by 2025, we will require that 25 percent of electricity sold in West Virginia must be generated from alternative or renewable energy facilities."

In the short time between that address and today, the battle between West Virginia officials and federal regulation of coal has intensified. Now, Manchin's plan for more renewable and alternative sources of energy is being criticized at time when being critical of those in Washington is increasing in popularity.

Del. Daryl Cowles, R-Morgan and minority whip, was one of the House Republicans who spoke against the energy portfolio legislation at a meeting of the caucus last week.

"It created tradable credits with a cap on traditional energy," Cowles said. "It's self-imposed right here in West Virginia. Over time the cap, and the mandates, get tighter and heavier and results in higher electric bills for families across West Virginia."

Manchin, during his Senate run, infamously ran a commercial where he took aim at a federal cap-and-trade bill.

"I'll take on Washington and this administration to get the federal government off of our back and out of our pockets. I'll cut federal spending, and I'll repeal the bad parts of Obamacare. I sued EPA, and I'll take dead aim at the cap-and-trade bill," Manchin said, then shooting a hole through the bill. "… because it's bad for West Virginia."

Del. Rick Snuffer, R-Raleigh, co-sponsor of the repeal, said he found it ironic Manchin would run on a platform against federal cap-and-trade just after implementing a form of cap-and-trade in his own state.

"I thought ‘wait a minute, that is the only governor in the United States who has signed the same piece of legislation, yet he gets elected for running against it,'" Snuffer said.

He added that Manchin's goals in creating the legislation was admirable "but not necessarily reachable." The result, Snuffer and the GOP caucus believes, is increased utility prices.

"I don't think it was responsible," Snuffer said. "It's going to cost a lot of money."

The artificial energy shortage that the legislation will create, Snuffer said, will be extremely hurtful to West Virginians, particularly when coupled with new regulations regarding coal-fired plants in West Virginia.

"Our water is cleaner than it's ever been. Our air since the industrial revolution is the cleanest it's ever been," Snuffer said. "These people want to make America toe the line while they're letting China, Russia, India and Pakistan pollute far worse than us. They want to handicap American industry, American citizens."

The portfolio standard requires a system of credits based on a trade-off of one credit to one megawatt of energy produced. Utilities that use alternative energy sources receive one credit, renewable energy two credits and renewable energy placed on abandoned surface mines three credits per megawatt produced.

Utilities can also earn one credit per ton of carbon dioxide emissions offset using technologies such as carbon sequestration.

Consumers can earn one credit per alternative energy source utilized and two credits per renewable-based megawatt produced at home and sold back to the electric grid.

The credits can be bought, sold or banked for future years.

The goal of the legislation is require all utilities to earn credits equal to 25 percent of the megawatts sold by the utility by 2025. Interim goals are to reach 10 percent in 2015 and 15 percent by 2020.

No more than 10 percent of the credits can come from either natural gas, considered an alternative energy by the legislation. Supercritical technologies for burning coal may also only count toward 10 percent of the credits required.

Compliance penalties are set at $50 per credit, or 200 percent of the market value of the credits. The bill specifies that companies may increase rates to account for costs of newer technologies but not to pay for any penalties assessed for non-compliance.


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