Through the passage of various pieces of mining-related legislation, the West Virginia Legislature showed their support for the coal industry during the 2021 session. Senate Bill 542, 677 and 718 passed the House and Senate and head to Gov. Jim Justice’s desk for his signature.

“These critically important pieces of legislation will help the mining industry maintain employment levels while improving safety throughout our operations,” West Virginia Coal Association President Chris Hamilton said.

SB 542’s intention is to maintain a place for coal in the West Virginia energy portfolio. The bill addresses the importance of coal-fired power plants to the electric grid and economy. It encourages utilities to keep plants in operation through their designed life cycle, provide advance notice to the West Virginia Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, Public Service Commission of West Virginia, and the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Government and Finance of retirement, closure or sale of a generating unit, and requires a 30-day supply of coal on site.

West Virginia’s coal fleet, comprised of nine individual plants and 25 units, is fueled on average by a total of 25 million tons annually; accounts for more than $2 billion of economic activity; and sustains approximately 3,500 mining jobs, 2,000 plant worker jobs, thousands of downstream and indirect local and surrounding county jobs, and hundreds of millions of dollars of payroll and tax dollars, according to the legislation.

SB 718 restores and amends the Investment Tax Rebate Program, which passed in 2019 to allow metallurgical coal operators to qualify for a rebate on paid severance taxes based on “qualifying investments” in existing mines or by developing new mining operations.  Severance taxes are based on the removal of natural resources and stand at anywhere from 2% to 5% in West Virginia.

SB 677, presented by the West Virginia Board of Coal Mine Health and Safety and Office of Miners’ Health, Safety & Training, improves miners’ safety, health and training standards regarding capacitors used for power correction, electrical work performed on low-, medium-, or high-voltage circuits or equipment, and the use of gas detecting devices.

“We are so very grateful for the recognition displayed by the Legislature and Governor [Jim] Justice of the importance of West Virginia’s coal economy,” Hamilton said.  “The mining and coal-fired power generation industries remain one of the largest economic generators in the state and state policy leaders recognized that fact through passage of Senate Bill 542, Senate Bill 718 and Senate Bill 677, among others.”