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Change in West Virginia's Approach to GHG Reductions?

West Virginia has played a pivotal role in the natural resource industry for its entire history. Dating back to the beginning of its history, West Virginia has provided this region and the nation with much of its coal supply. More recently, West Virginia has seen huge advancements in its natural gas production. All told, it’s safe to say that West Virginia has a rather significant carbon footprint. As science, technology, research ventures, and environmental consciousness have advanced, so too have people’s concerns about this carbon footprint. While coal and natural gas do in fact keep the lights on, they too create problems affecting this and future generations.

Fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas are burned to heat water, which produces steam, which powers generators, which in turn creates electricity. This process, however, has as of late become a growing concern for many citizens, both foreign and domestic. The greenhouse gases (GHGs) produced from burning carbon based fuels are now being linked (tenuously or not) to the growing problems of climate change and global warming. As such, states with large carbon footprints are being pushed both from within their respective states and by the federal government to reduce these emissions to hopefully curtail the effects of global warming. While there are numerous methods to achieve this goal, this blog will briefly discuss West Virginia’s chosen method and its potential to reduce carbon emissions in the Mountain State.

A few years back, during former Governor Joe Manchin’s tenure, a bill was passed that implemented a “cap and trade (CAT)” approach to GHG reductions. In a nut shell, the CAT approach sets a limit on carbon emissions, known as the “cap”. Emissions are then measured, and any emitters that come in under the cap are granted allowances. The allowance holders are then entitled to sell their allowances to emitters who didn’t achieve the goal, enabling these emitters to essentially buy credits to offset their GHGs. This is the “trade” element of the CAT system. While you can find various opinions on the effectiveness and efficiency of this approach, it seems that the newly elected representatives in Charleston are not too fond of the CAT idea.

Incoming House of Delegates Speaker Tim Armstead (R-Kanawha) recently spoke with MetroNews regarding his intentions to repeal the bill as soon as possible. “We think it not only has [a] devastating impact on our energy sector [and] our coal jobs in our state, but also it will result in increased utility rates for our citizens and we need to stop that,” Armstead said. “One of the first things we’re going to do is repeal that bill.” Armstead also stated that he feels that his movement to repeal the bill will be well received by West Virginians.

As is always the case with these blogs, this blog does not intend to pass judgment or evaluate the benefit or detriment that this decision will have. What these blogs, and this blog in particular, do aim to do is shed light on important state-wide issues for concerned citizens and voters. Whether it be cap and trade, a carbon tax, or some other form of GHG reduction, it is undeniable that these decisions will have an impact on the future residents of this great state. As such, it is our civic duty as West Virginians to inform ourselves on these issues, make educated decisions, and to ultimately make our voices heard. We certainly do not want to cripple the backbone industries of this state, but hopefully we do want to make strides to provide a healthy environment for future generations.