Instated under Democrat Gov. Joe Manchin in 2009, the act addresses utilities servicing more than 30,000 customers; municipalities and rural cooperatives are exempt.

Significant changes seem unlikely, however, as alternative energies are defined broadly under the current rule, and encompass various coal-burning technologies, natural gas and fuel, according to the Public Service Commission.

Republican lawmakers, for their part, called the effort essential to Central Appalachia’s top industry. “If we save just one coal miner’s job, it’s well worth it,” said state Delegate John Shott, R-Mercer. West Virginia’s Coal Association and providers, including Appalachian Electric Power, helped craft the bill.

Democrats like Delegate Nancy Guthrie, D-Kanawha, meanwhile, dismissed what they labeled “election-year politicking.” “This is theater,” she said. “If not, you would have to apologize for calling us Obama lovers.” Manchin, now a senator, is seeking gubernatorial re-election; Republicans recently assumed majority control of the legislature for the first time in more than 80 years.

James Taylor, an environmental fellow at the Heartland Institute, a Chicago-based public policy organization, however, was unequivocal. “Renewable power mandates drive up electricity costs, kill jobs, punish the economy, and inflict substantial unintentional harm on the environment,” he said.