The WV Legislature opened this week for their annual 60-day session and it is patently obvious that ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, will be running the Republican agenda from the start. An ALEC bill, S.B. 1 and H.B. 2001, repeals the Alternative and Renewable Energy Portfolio Act (a.k.a. AREPS) in its entirety. These were the first two bills introduced and they have already been through committees in both chambers, first in the Senate Energy, Industry and Mining (EIM) committee on the second day of the session, and also in the House Energy committee only a few minutes later on the same afternoon.
The problem with this is that the repeal takes out the important aspects of net metering, interconnection and PSC rule-making authority, which would have an unfavorable impact on many solar energy producers/owners in the state. After much activity since the start of the session on day 2 and 3 we are already worn out after the first half-week. Here is Bill Howley’s assessment, plus some of my comments on how the day ended late on Friday afternoon.
Today’s House Judiciary Committee meeting just ended after 2 ½ hours. The Chairman, Delegate John Shott (R-Mercer) opened the meeting by saying that he had prepared a committee substitute that protected net metering while repealing the rest of the law. (It should be noted that the House Judiciary committee has only 7 returning members and 18 newbies so we must bear with them, but overall I thought they did a very good job of keeping on point; but on a Friday afternoon it is a little tough to take)
There was considerable discussion about whether just keeping paragraph 8 of the law would protect PSC rulemaking on net metering, and whether definitions had to be added back into the ”committee substitute” bill. There was extensive questioning of PSC General Counsel Rick Hitt on these issues, and I think the committee is now straight on what needs to be in the comm sub.
The committee adjourned without voting on the comm sub or any amendments. They will meet again on Monday morning at 8:30 to hear testimony from James Van Nostrand, a WVU law professor who is an expert on electric regulation. Delegate Barbara Fleischauer (D-Monongalia) asked that James be allowed to testify on Monday since he was unable to make the afternoon meeting on Friday. I expect the committee will vote on the comm sub on Monday.
They have heard our message, and H.B. 2001 will be fixed in the House. Senate Energy will meet on Monday morning just after the meeting in the House. So after Monday, we will probably have bills moving in both chambers that include our protections for net metering.
We need to get our hands and eyes on the amended versions of the bills to see if our provisions are kept intact. We will have to watch the wording of each version of the bill right up until the end of the session. Lots of changes can happen at any time. At the WV Legislature, there is no truer statement than “it ain’t over until the fat lady sings.”
Keep checking the information pages for both bills on the Legislature’s website. The amended versions of the bills will show up in a few days.
Great work everyone. We are on our way.
Well said Bill and a shout out to WV-Sun list serve for getting our message out to the legislators and staff in a timely fashion so early in the session. Happy New Year to all the folks who care about important policy decisions that affect each and every one of us in West Virginia.