Coal, Oil and Gas Industries to Closely Follow WV Legislative Session
By Charles Young
January 5, 2020 - Representatives of the state’s most economically important industries will be closely following the work of the upcoming session of the West Virginia Legislature.
Bill Raney, president of the West Virginia Coal Association, and Charlie Burd, executive director of the West Virginia Independent Oil and Gas Association, both said they will be monitoring legislation relevant to their industries as the 60-day session progresses in Charleston.
Raney said his organization will continue to support legislation aimed at helping the state’s coal industry retain its current market share.
“We have hopefully some control of that market here in West Virginia. They use about 30 million tons of coal to make electricity here, and we want to do everything we can to make sure they continue to use that much coal — and that it is West Virginia coal,” he said. “We want to do everything that we can to help metallurgical coal producers to compete. That’s certainly much more of a world market.”
Revising the tax structure and permitting process for metallurgical coal producers could help them be more competitive on a global scale, Raney said.
“You’ve got to look at all the differences you have between the countries. Usually America has more stringent regulations for safety and the environment than anybody else, so the cost typically is higher,” he said.” So we’ve got to look at the tax structure and permitting and make sure the entry is easy as possible and economical as possible, so that these folks have an opportunity to compete.”
His organization supports the repeal of the state’s business personal property tax on machinery, inventory and equipment, Raney said.
“As long as it applies to our inventory and equipment and things, I think it’s very important to do that,” he said. “The manufacturing community tells me that is extremely important to them, so it sounds like it is something that needs to be done. We just need to make sure it is all-inclusive and figure out ways to make sure that the revenues are protected and backfilled.”
There currently aren’t any proposed pieces of legislation to which the Coal Association specifically objects, Raney said.
“There’s none that we’ve seen yet,” he said. “But any push to move to other energy sources or limit the ability for our folks to get into the coal seams that they need to get into — anything that would affect permitting and string it out and make it more expensive — we certainly would have opposition to any of those kinds of things.”
Burd said his organization’s legislative goals are “pretty simple.”
“We are always sort of on guard to protect ourselves from any type of tax increases or things that further hurt our ability to be in business,” he said. “We’re always on guard to make sure that we don’t get things that can hurt us financially.”
During the last legislative session, IOGA supported a bill, which ultimately failed, that would have provided funding to the West Virginia Environmental Protection Agency for plugging old wells, Burd said.
“Last year there was a bill where there would have been extra funds to get extradited permitting that would have gone to the DEP and would have also helped fund plugging orphaned and abandoned wells,” he said. “That’s something that I think we’re going to be trying to pursue again.”
While the oil and gas industry would not be directly impacted by a repeal of the business personal property tax, IOGA supports efforts to eliminate the tax, Burd said.
“We have indicated our support to the West Virginia Manufacturers Association to be with them on their attempt to get that constitutional amendment on the ballot and let the voters of West Virginia make that decision,” he said. “We are not heavily impacted — there are some small fees associated with gas storage, but other than that there’s not too much that we are impacted by.”
However, eliminating the tax could open up significant opportunities for industries associated with other aspects of the oil and gas industry, Burd said.
“We do support that, because it would help create an atmosphere that would help expand existing industrial facilities and attract new industrial facilities,” he said. “Expansions and the addition of new facilities generally means the need create a more downstream market for natural gas.”