Business, Energy, Environment, West Virginia Legislature

Senate bills treat on trees, carbon, silver and gold

MORGANTOWN – Carbon, trees and gold occupied the attention of Senate committees on Monday.

SB 618 would create a state Carbon Exchange Program administered by the Division of Forestry. It would give oversight of the sale and purchase of carbon credits generated by timber harvest restrictions and other forestry practices.

It says, “No carbon credit originating from real property or standing timber in West Virginia may be sold other than through the West Virginia Carbon Exchange.”

And, pointedly, it says citizens of or entities organized in or controlled by citizens or governments of a Country of Particular Concern are ineligible to register for the exchange.

Senate Government Organization looked at the bill.

David McMahon, speaking for the West Virginia Surface Owners Rights Organization, said they object to it because it could prevent West Virginia surface owners making money off of their trees if they hire an out-of-state company to scientifically manage their trees, They oppose the state regulating their trees.

The committee approved the bill in a voice vote and it goes next to Finance. Committee counsel said a fiscal note on the bill’s financial impact to the state has been requested but not supplied yet.

SB 749 is the West Virginia Legal Tender Act, taken up by the Banking and Insurance Committee.

It creates a state Bullion Depository to accept deposits of gold and silver bullion and specie (coins). With the depository, the state could establish metal-backed “transactional currency,” which would serve as legal tender to pay debts and taxes via electronic transfers – as an alternative to federal paper currency.

Committee counsel said the bill’s constitutionality may be called into question because states may not coin money, per Article I Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution: Congress shall have power to coin money, regulate the value thereof.

However, two advocates for the exchange told the senators Section 10 of the same article appears to allow the practice: “No State shall make any thing but gold and silver coin a tender in payment of debts.”

Witness Kevin Freeman wrote a book called “Pirate Money” on the subject. He’s served as a Pentagon and federal agency consultant and said the Founders did not want unbacked paper money because it can ruin commerce.

He said 25 states are considering this idea. “You should be ahead of the curve; you should be a leader not a follower.” The U.S. government, he said, is weaponizing paper currency for leftist ESG priorities, such as climate equity.

Jason Cousins is with Glint, a platform that enables users to own gold bullion and use the Glint app to make electronic payments across the globe. He just used it, he said, for an airplane flight, a hotel and Starbucks.

“It’s just another way to pay; it’s another kind of account.”

Finance chair Eric Tarr, R-Putnam, asked about the wisdom of launching this in an inflationary environment, with the possibility the feds could confiscate all the gold, as they did in 1933 when President Franklin Roosevelt took the nation off the gold standard.

Freeman said that FDR confiscated the gold because it was being hoarded, but a subsequent Supreme Court ruling forbids confiscating gold used for legal tender.

Committee chair Mike Azinger, R-Wood, told the members that this meeting was just an introduction to the issue. The members agreed to his proposal to create a study resolution for the 2024 interims, so they can bring the bill back in 2025 for full consideration and action.