How careful should one be when spending a large sum of money?
Consider buying a car — most would spend days, even weeks, shopping around, looking at different prices of makes and models and comparing local dealerships before committing to spending upwards of $15 thousand.
West Virginia lawmakers, however, felt it was appropriate to spend $12.5 million, and spend it as quickly and with as little debate as possible.
Two days ago, our state leaders passed House Bill 207, a bill that would cut state revenue by $12.5 million for the sake of keeping a coal plant in Pleasants County from going bankrupt. The worst part? Experts are skeptical it will even work.
“It just doesn’t make sense, but I don’t think the Legislature gave it a whole lot of scrutiny,” said James Van Nostrand, director of WVU’s Center for Energy and Sustainable Development and professor of law. “I don’t think First Energy did a great job of providing the numbers to really convince anyone that a $12 million tax break’s going to make that much difference.
“First Energy said that’s what we need to keep the coal plant open, then everybody just falls in line and passes it.”
And pass it they did, with an overwhelming majority. In the House of Delegates, the bill passed 77-5 with 18 absences, while in the Senate, it passed unanimously 28-0 with six absences. West Virginia constitutional rules were even suspended so the bill could pass as quickly as possible.
It seemed our leaders wanted to support the free market and create competition as they passionately argued for the creation of charter schools in West Virginia, but when a coal-fired power plant couldn’t compete in that same market, a bailout was in order.
It’s also notable that the plant itself, the Pleasants County Power Station, is being taken over by First Energy Solutions, a subsidiary of current owner First Energy, and First Energy Solutions is already filing bankruptcy.
Since 2010, 289 coal-fired power plants have closed — 51 of which occurred with President Donald Trump in office. Yet, our state lawmakers continue to staunchly defy the overwhelming evidence that there will be no slowing of the downward spiral of the coal industry, and they do so at the cost of their constituents.
The short-sightedness in Charleston has disappointed us time and time again, so while this bill is upsetting and seems to us like an absolute waste of money, it is wholly unsurprising.
There are myriad issues in our state, and all of them could have made great use of $12.5 million. Instead, it’s been wasted so our representatives can pat themselves on the back for prolonging the inevitable.