FILE - Virginia Del. Terry Kilgore

Virginia Del. Terry Kilgore, R-Gate City

(The Center Square) – The Virginia House Appropriations Committee voted unanimously Monday to advance several grant bills, including a green-energy grant for renewable energy projects on land that had been used for coal mines.

House Bill 1925, sponsored by Del. Terry Kilgore, R-Gate City, would create the Virginia Brownfield and Coal Mine Renewable Energy Grant Fund and Program and allocate up to $35 million in federal funds for the program.

The money could be used for projects located only on brownfield or any previously coal mined land. No more than $10 million would be awarded to a single project on previously coal mined land and no more than $5 million would be allocated for a single brownfield project. The funding is contingent on federal funds being available.

Of the $35 million, $20 million would be reserved for previously coal mined land projects, but that money may be distributed to brownfield projects if all of the $20 million is not used on coal mined projects.

The grants will be awarded competitively on a basis of $500 per kilowatt of nameplate capacity for projects on previously coal mined land and $100 per kilowatt of nameplate capacity for brownfield projects. The program would be administered by the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy.

Virginia has been moving toward carbon-free renewable energy. A bill signed by Gov. Ralph Northam last year requires Dominion Energy to produce 100% of its energy from renewable sources by 2045 and for Appalachian Power to produce 100% of its energy from renewable sources by 2050. Lawmakers are considering bills that would speed up the process.

Although advocates say the renewable energy mandates will benefit the environment, critics warn that it could make Virginia’s energy utilities less competitive with other states and lead to fewer jobs and higher costs for consumers.

The House Appropriations committee advanced three other bills Monday, including two agricultural funding bills.

House Bill 2068, sponsored by Del. Sam Rasoul, D-Roanoke, would provide grants for infrastructure to support local food production and sustainable farming. Grants, which would be awarded on a competitive basis, would go toward farmers' markets and other food hubs. Awards for individual projects would be capped at $25,000.

The second agricultural bill, House Bill 2203 sponsored by Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Fairfax, would create the Virginia Agriculture Food Assistance Program, which would provide funding for farmers and food producers to sell, donate or otherwise provide products to charitable food assistance organizations. The bill would authorize the commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services to adopt guidelines and regulations for the program.

A fourth bill to pass the committee was House Bill 2101, sponsored by Del. William Wampler, R-Abingdon. This bill would remove the sunset clause for the tobacco region revitalization commission, which is set to sunset July 1. Effectively, this legislation would make the existing grant program permanent.

Staff Reporter

Tyler Arnold reports on Virginia and West Virginia for The Center Square. He previously worked for the Cause of Action Institute and has been published in Business Insider, USA TODAY College, National Review Online and the Washington Free Beacon.