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House OKs mining mutual, bank fossil fuel boycott bills, and others on Friday

MORGANTOWN – Here is a look at some of the other House action on Friday.

SB 1, Senate President Craig Blair’s Mining Mutual Insurance Company, generated opposition form members of both parties. Members rejected two proposed amendments before moving to the bill itself.

The state funds reclamation at abandoned mines through a combination of bond proceeds and money from the Special Reclamation Fund under the Surface Mining Control Reclamation Act. The bill creates the mining mutual as a domestic, private corporation, in the same manner the Physicians Mutual in 2003 and BrickStreet in 2005 — for Workers Compensation — were previously created.

Participation is voluntary. A special revenue account will be created under the Department of Environmental Protection called the Mining Mutual Insurance Company Fund and be initially supplied with $50 million — the source of that money to be determined but not from the Special Reclamation Fund.

Delegate Marty Gearheart, R-Mercer, was among those who said there’s no imminent danger of any mining companies defaulting on their bonds to merit putting $50 million of taxpayer money into a potentially risky company.

Supporters said that five insurance companies carry 915 of the mine reclamation bond debt in the state, and just one carries 67%. The total bond debt exceeds $800 million, so the potential safeguard outweighs the risk

Finance vice chair Vernon Criss, R-Wood, said, This is simply another situation where we have got to take care of ourselves.” People don’t understand they need energy and oppose West Virginia’s energy contribution. “We are going to be there for the near future and the long future in energy and this is a company that we need to make sure we’re there.”

The vote was 61-36 and it returns to the Senate for amendment concurrence. Locally, Republicans Phil Mallow, Joe Statler, Terri Sypolt and Guy Ward, and Democrat Dave Pethtel voted for it; Republicans Buck Jennings and Amy Summers, and Democrats Barbara Evans Fleischauer, Joey Garcia, Evan Hansen, Danielle Walker and John Williams voted against it.

SB 10 provides that every electronic application for a hunting or fishing license shall include a solicitation for a voluntary donation to the WVU Rifle Team and spells out how the process will be handled. It passed 98-0 and returns to the Senate for amendment concurrence.

SB 246 requires water bottle filling stations for newly constructed schools and for schools undergoing major improvements. It passed 83-10 and returns to the Senate. All local delegates voted for it.

SB 262 allows the treasurer to put banking institutions that boycott fossil fuel companies on a publicly available Restricted Financial Institution List and to refuse to enter into a banking contract with those

institutions. BlckRock is typically the institution referred to.

Delegate Mark Zatezalo talked about the need to continue with fossil fuels until renewables are ready to carry baseload. “You do not stop investing in fossil fuels before you have everything in place. … We don’t deserve to have our economy wrecked.”

Nearly three-quarters of all coal-fired power is in Asia, and said, and China is expanding mining and coal-fired power.

Referring to the banks that boycott fossil energy companies, he said, “It’s almost sedition that they would not allow investment in fossil fuels while sending their money over to China.”

The bill passed 80-14 and returns to the Senate. Locally, Garcia, Hansen, Walker and Williams voted against it. Fleischauer was not present in the chamber for the vote.

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