The Mountain State’s TRUSTED news source.

Click here to stay informed and subscribe to The Charleston Gazette-Mail.

Click #isupportlocal for more information on supporting our local journalists.

Learn more about HD Media

The West Virginia Legislature’s 2021 session is off to a ferocious start. Bills are being introduced and considered rapidly, with very little time given for public input and very limited public access to committee proceedings or other activities at the Capitol building.

Those of us trying to keep track of legislation have to do all we can to keep the public informed and keep constituents in contact with their delegates and senators. To that end, there are very important pieces of legislation for West Virginia’s economic, energy, public health and environmental future that I’d like to bring to your attention, and I encourage you to contact your representatives about them quickly.

Senate Bill 30, titled “Permitting third-party ownership of renewable and alternative energy generating facilities,” and the similar House Bill 2249, titled “Permitting customers and developers to enter into solar power purchase agreements,” have been introduced to the Senate Economic Development Committee and the House Energy and Manufacturing Committee, respectively.

These bills would legalize power-purchasing agreements (PPAs) in West Virginia and have bipartisan backing, with SB 30 introduced by Sen. Charles Trump, R-Morgan, and HB 2249 introduced by Delegate Barbara Fleischauer, D-Monongalia.

The coalition West Virginians for Energy Freedom, longtime advocates for PPAs in West Virginia, defines PPAs as “a widely available method to finance distributed energy generation projects such as rooftop solar panels or landfill bio-gas.” West Virginians for Energy Freedom explains: “These third-party agreements are legal in at least 28 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. States such as Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Georgia offer PPAs, but they are not available in West Virginia.”

PPAs can bring renewable energy to West Virginia, while creating jobs, saving West Virginia’s energy consumers money and improving public health and environmental protection as we inevitably move away from fossil fuels. They also help foster the kind of energy independence that both major parties and people along the entire political ideological spectrum can get behind.

Another crucial piece of legislation, introduced by Delegate Evan Hansen, D-Monongalia, HB 2287, titled “Providing for solar energy production on formerly mined land,” would “encourage solar energy development on lands formerly used for mining and certain third-party co-generation projects, to provide electricity for commercial, industrial and manufacturing businesses or institutions of higher education or nonprofit organizations that are located in or will locate in West Virginia,” according to the summary

Many businesses and corporations are pledging to reduce, and eventually eliminate, their greenhouse gas emissions in the coming years and decades. If we want those entities to locate in West Virginia and bring their jobs with them, we have to be able to accommodate their energy and other infrastructural needs and goals.

HB 2287 gives us a leg up on attracting and retaining these investments, while also providing cheaper energy for our existing commercial, industrial and nonprofit entities. There’s no reason why partisan politics or political ideology should get in the way of all the potential in this bill.

The House Energy and Manufacturing Committee is chaired by Delegate Bill Anderson, R-Wood. The Senate Economic Development Committee is chaired by Sen. Chandler Swope, R-Mercer. Please contact these chairmen and let them know you want to see House Bills 2249 and 2287 and Senate Bill 30 on the committee agendas and see them passed. The legislative session ends April 10.

West Virginia deserves a more diversified economy, with more and better jobs, cheaper energy and better protection of our health and natural resources. These bills can help us get there.

Eric Engle is chairman of Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action.