(The Center Square) – Legislation to abolish certain coal subsidies will head back to the General Assembly after Gov. Ralph Northam offered an amendment to specify where the money will be redirected.
House Bill 1899 would end two major subsidies for the coal industry: the Coal Employment and Production Incentive Tax Credit and the Coalfield Employment Enhancement Tax Credit. The bill received support from Democratic leaders and opposition from Republicans.
The legislation would halt the allocation of credits by Jan. 1, 2022, but all credits earned before that date could still be claimed with a cap of $1 million annually for the carryover credits. The subsidies cost the state $21 million in gross domestic product and $5 million in personal income between 2010 and 2018, according to a review by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission. The coal industry saved about $291.5 million during that time period.
An amendment by Northam would require that the money saved by the government for eliminating these subsidies be redirected to the University of Virginia’s College at Wise in Southwest Virginia to expand course offerings in data science, computer science and renewable energy.
The legislation is part of a broader push by Democratic lawmakers to move the state away from carbon-producing energy sources and replace them with renewable sources. Dominion Energy is required to produce 100% of its energy with renewable sources by 2045 and Appalachian Power is required to do the same by 2050.
Supporters of the move toward renewable energy have stated environmental benefits, but opponents have cautioned that it could be costly for taxpayers and ratepayers.