“Controversial” resolution – introduced by Raleigh County Delegate Sally Susman with 41 Co-Sponsors and strong Raleigh County support – prevented from going to House Floor for a vote
CHARLESTON, WV – Early Wednesday evening, Speaker Rick Thompson and other members of the House Rules Committee decided to prevent H.C.R 52, or the “Resolution Supporting the development of a permanent utility-scale wind farm on Coal River Mountain in Raleigh County, West Virginia,” from being moved out of the Committee and back to the House Floor for a full vote.
Raleigh County Delegate Sally Susman introduced the resolution on Tuesday, March 31st, in recognition of the obvious economic advantage the wind farm would bring to her county in relation to the proposed mountaintop removal operation. At the time it was introduced, the resolution had a total of 6 original sponsors and 35 co-sponsors. Four out of the five Raleigh County delegates had signed on in support, with Republican Delegate Linda Sumner being the only delegate from the district to decline.
According to the resolution, “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,” and further, ” 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.”
Reacting to the Rules Committee decision, Danny Chiotos, Organizer for the Student Environmental Action Coalition and West Virginia Youth Action League (WV-YAL) had this to say, “The House of Delegates lost an opportunity to show support for green jobs and clean energy by killing this resolution. We saw our government again side with big coal rather than the people, and it is high time that the House act to support a sustainable economy in West Virginia.”
The strong legislative support for the Resolution shows that there are varied perceptions as to how best to generate economic development in the southern West Virginia coal-producing counties. The stated purpose of the resolution was to “promote the diversification of the local and state economies and energy portfolios while allowing for continued responsible underground coal mining in the area.”
“Forty-one state legislators had signed on, recognizing that developing a wind farm was the better economic land-use option for Coal River Mountain, and that mountaintop removal would eliminate the chance for that to happen,” said Rory McIlmoil, Coordinator for the Coal River Wind campaign. “It is highly disconcerting that a handful of members of the Rules Committee can so blatantly undermine the democratic process and reject the support of nearly half the members of our House of Delegates.”
To which Vernon Haltom, Co-Director of Coal River Mountain Watch, added, “We applaud those delegates who stood with Delegate Susman in recognizing the need to diversify the economy of Raleigh County and all of southern West Virginia. I wish the rest of West Virginia’s legislators had the courage to do the same thing, and act in the best interest of the people of the state rather than continuing to prioritize serving the financial interests of a few out-of-state coal companies.”
“It appears that the only delegate from the Raleigh County district who didn’t want this is Delegate Linda Sumner. With the jobs this would create and the revenue this would bring to our county, why would anyone not want to be a part of this?” said Lorelei Scarbro, Community Organizer for the wind campaign.
“This money could last forever, and would go a long way toward stimulating new economic opportunities for the county, and for assisting our fire departments, ambulance services, sheriff’s departments and schools,” she added. “We need all of our delegates to do all they can in these hard economic times, and I’m severely disappointed in those legislators who aided in the squashing of this important resolution.”
For more information, or to view a list of sponsors, visit Coal River Wind.org or the state legislative website.
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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.