For all of her “drill, baby, drill” cheerleading, at least Governor Sarah Palin is willing to have a discussion about renewable energy sources like wind and geothermal. According to the Coal River Wind Project, the West Virginia House of Delegates Speaker Rick Thompson and a handful of House Rules Committee members have just blocked a resolution for the development of a nationally acclaimed industrial wind farm and responsible underground coal mining on Coal River Mountain from going to the floor for an actual debate or vote.
That’s not all: Despite 41 co-sponsors, including 4 out of the 5 Delegates who actually live in the same county as the proposed wind farm and underground mining plan, Speaker Rick Thompson and his Big Coal posse have turned their backs on coal miners and coal mining families and rejected any discussion in these hard economic times for a resolution to “promote the diversification of the local and state economies and energy portfolios while allowing for continued responsible underground coal mining in the area.”
Beholden to out of state coal companies, this is the WV House Rules Committee message to the nation: No stinkin’ green jobs-producing, $2 million annual tax revenue-providing, clean energy community-building and diversified economy and new jobs initiatives for us.
If Sarah Palin can declare her intent to meet half of her state’s electricity needs from renewable energy sources by 2025, why is the WV House Rules Committee putting a gag order on this critical debate for a transition in the coalfields into the new economy?
Meanwhile, a real debate by both sides has been flourishing at Ken Ward’s Coal Tattoo blog on the merits of wind vs. mountaintop removal operations, and other green jobs initiatives.
HOUSE CONCURRENT RESOLUTION NO. 52
(By Delegates Susman, Longstreth, Manypenny, Perdue, Staggers, Fleischauer, Argento, Barker, Beach, Boggs, Brown, Cann, Crosier, Doyle, Eldridge, Ellem, Fragale, Guthrie, Hatfield, Iaquinta, Klempa, Kominar, Lawrence, Louisos, Mahan, Manchin, Martin, McGeehan, Miley, Moore, Morgan, Moye, Reynolds, Rodighiero, Shook, Stephens, Talbott, Webster, Wells, White and Wooton)
Supporting the development of a permanent utility-scale wind farm on Coal River Mountain in the Coal River Mountain Area of Raleigh County, West Virginia, in order to promote the diversification of the local and state economies and energy portfolios while allowing for continued responsible underground coal mining in the area.
Whereas, the West Virginia coal industry provides a significant amount of energy for the United States and a vital source of jobs and economic revenue for West Virginia, including 1,100 mining jobs and over $1.5 million in annual coal severance taxes for Raleigh County; and
Whereas, there are vast opportunities for diversifying the state energy portfolio, while creating new industries, new jobs and new sources of revenue that can complement those contributed by the coal industry in southern West Virginia counties such as Raleigh County; and
Whereas, wind power provides one such opportunity, as there are substantial, economically feasible wind resources of both the large and small-scale that can be developed in southern West Virginia; and
Whereas, studies have shown that wind resources and the economic benefits of wind development are severely diminished and development rendered economically prohibitive as the ridge altitude is reduced as a result of surface mining; and
Whereas, a Coal River Mountain wind farm, consisting of 164 wind turbines and generating 328 megawatts of electricity, would provide over $1.74 million in annual property taxes to Raleigh County; and coal severance taxes related to proposed mountaintop removal mining, by comparison, would provide the county with only $36,000 per year; and
Whereas, a wind farm of this magnitude, combined with incentives for development of other wind farms in Raleigh County and other counties in southern West Virginia, could result in the development and growth of a viable and lasting wind industry; and
Whereas, by stimulating new economic opportunities in the rural parts of Raleigh County, the wind farm would provide greater opportunities for economic diversification than would be provided by the surface mining operations proposed for Coal River Mountain; and
Whereas, wind power development on Coal River Mountain is possible because of the unique topography of the region, and wind is a natural resource from which much of southern West Virginia will be unable to benefit economically if surface mining continues and is expanded on, and in adjacent areas of, Coal River Mountain; and
Whereas, Raleigh County coal production and mine productivity have been steadily declining since 1997, even as surface mine production has expanded, thus indicating that coal reserves in Raleigh County are being rapidly depleted, as will be the jobs and severance taxes that coal mining currently contributes to the county’s economy; and
Whereas, a December 2008 study shows that long-term economic stewardship of Coal River Mountain, allowing for both the continued recovery of coal by expanding underground mining while preserving the surface landscape of Coal River Mountain for wind farming, affords substantial and relatively greater economic benefits through diversified economic development and energy production than surface mining would, and which surface mining activity alone eliminates; and
Whereas, underground mining in West Virginia employs approximately twice the number of workers per ton of coal produced than surface mining; and
Whereas, developing alternative industries is necessary to ensure the future economic vitality of the Coal River Valley; and
Whereas, the proposed wind farm development for Coal River Mountain received the annual, nationally recognized and highly competitive “Building Economic Alternatives” award by the non-profit Green America (formerly Co-Op America); and
Whereas, formal surveys and opinion polls show that a decisive majority of West Virginia citizens support a ban on the surface mining practice of mountaintop removal mining, like that currently being permitted on Coal River Mountain, and that 62 percent of West Virginians support wind development rather than mountaintop removal mining for Coal River Mountain; therefore, be it
Resolved by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That the West Virginia Legislature supports the development of a permanent commercial wind farm on Coal River Mountain in the Coal River Mountain Area of Raleigh County, West Virginia, in order to promote the diversification of local and state economies and energy portfolios while continuing to properly evaluate the permitting of responsible underground coal mining activity in the area; and, be it
Further Resolved, That the Clerk of the (House / Senate) is hereby directed to forward a copy of this resolution to the Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection.