Energy, Entertainment, Latest News, West Virginia Legislature

Bill lifting nuclear power ban gets first committee OK in Senate; bill to reinstate film tax credit also gets a nod

MORGANTOWN — The effort to repeal the state’s ban on building nuclear power plants took its first step forward on Wednesday as the Senate Economic Development Committee passed SB 4 to lift the ban.

The bill is only one sentence long and repeals the two sections of code passed in 1996 that imposed the ban.

The first section of code facing repeal explains why the ban was enacted: “The use of nuclear fuels and nuclear power poses an undue hazard to the health, safety and welfare of the people of the state of West Virginia, especially until there is an effective method to safely and permanently dispose of the radioactive wastes generated thereby.”

It says the ban could not be lifted until waste disposal, environmental protection and economic feasibility all could be addressed.

Many legislators have heard presentations this session — reported on here in The Dominion Post — on developments in advanced nuclear reactors and their role in repurposing outmoded coal-fired plants that have led to a renewed interest in this form of energy.

Answering questions from senators, Linda Bouvette, Public Service Commission staff attorney said any proposed new nuclear facilities would fall under PSC and Department of Environmental Protection oversight,

Sen. Mike Woelfel, D-Cabell and one of the bill’s sponsors, said “This is a chance for West Virginia to be an all-of-the-above energy state. He mentioned that nuclear plants also fall under federal oversight. “It’s a great idea. It’s long overdue.”

The bill passed in a voice vote and goes to the full Senate.

Film tax credit bill

In other business, the committee spent more time considering a bill to reinstate the former film tax credit than it did on SB 4.

SB 51 reinstates the credit abolished in 2017, with significant changes. It allows for a cumulative $50,000 credit, allowing companies that pursue more than one project in the state with no one project meeting the threshold to apply.

It moves oversight of the credit from Tourism to Economic Development. It requires an eligible project to be feature-length, with a minimum of 40 minutes.

Delegate Dianna Graves, R-Kanawha, appeared before the committee and said she spent several years crafting the bill. She reviewed the legislative audit that detailed the many flaws and abuses of the first credit — such as depreciating towels — to craft a better version.

One improvement: the film office abolished in 2017 cost $3 million to $10 million per yer, she said, but Economic Development said they could handle everything with one additional staffer.

Graves and Rachel Coffman, representing the Motion Picture Association, both said the rise of streaming services makes reinstating the credit worthwhile.

Graves said Hulu, Netflix and Amazon Prime all spend millions on projects but don’t look at West Virginia. Many states have reestablished their credits in order to capitalize on the potential business.

Members approved two amendments to the bill. One eliminated a provision making it retroactive to 2017. The other set a five-year sunset, so the credit can be reviewed before renewal.

SB 51 passed in a voice vote and goes next to Finance.

TWEET David Beard @dbeardtdp