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Legislation Boosts Continued Use of Coal



By Charles Boothe

March 18, 2023 - West Virginia has seen several new green energy-related industries move into the state recently, and more are sought.

But Gov. Jim Justice and legislators have made it clear that fossil fuels, especially coal, remain a vital part of the electric grid in the state and in the country and will continue to be needed in the foreseeable future.

Several bills that passed this year reflect that commitment to fossil fuel energy and the quest to maximize its use.

House Bill 3482, the Coal Fired Grid Stabilization and Security Act of 2023, will encourage the development, transportation, and use of electricity generated using West Virginia coal as the energy source for generating electricity. The bill directs the Department of Economic Development to designate sites viable for coal electric generation projects.

House Bill 3303 will offer assistance to expand the continued operation and reliance on West Virginia coal for mine operations, coal-fired electric utilities, and other coal assets in the state. Additionally, the bill will enhance the activities of the Coalfield Community Development Office to aid the industry while also implementing an educational program to promote the state’s coal industry.

SB 609 requires Public Energy Authority approval for any existing utility or non-utility plant fueled by coal, oil or natural gas that may be decommissioned or deconstructed.

Chris Hamilton, president of the West Virginia Coal Association, pointed to those bills in a press release Friday about the state’s support of coal, saying the passage of the bills this legislative session, which ended March 11, showed that state policy makers took unprecedented steps to “stabilize the region’s electric grid and encourage the development of energy using West Virginia coal.”

“All West Virginians should thank their legislator and the Governor for prioritizing the reliability of our electric grid and the maximization of our in-state coal resources,” Hamilton said. “The package of legislation they passed and the Governor signed will help protect us against us against calamitous weather events, like the winter storm this past December that almost brought down the grid, and ensure jobs for our miners and continued economic activity for our communities.”

Justice has long said the country has to achieve a reasonable balance between using and developing renewable energy source and the continued use of fossil fuels.

“I have said all along we don’t want to forget coal,” Justice said recently. “We want to embrace all alternatives … Renewables just can’t take over. I am an all-encompassing energy guy because I really believe it is frivolous ot think that today these alternatives can control the day today. They can’t. There is no way they can.”

Justice said fossil fuel energy is “going to be here for awhile” and “we have to have our fossil fuels today.”