Curtis Tate Published

Justice Vetoes Bill To Expand Size Of Renewable Power Projects

Black solar panels spread out over a rolling hill, with new grass planted below and a gravel road running between them.
The Fort Martin solar installation.
Curtis Tate/West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Gov. Jim Justice has vetoed a bill that would have expanded the size of renewable electricity facilities in the state.

Justice on Tuesday vetoed House Bill 5528. The bill would have let power companies build individual solar or wind projects up to 100 megawatts.

Current law allows for projects of 50 megawatts. But it also includes a sunset provision that ends the window for such projects early next year. HB 5528 would have lifted the provision.

The bill passed by wide margins in both chambers: 61 to 36 in the House and 32 to 1 in the Senate.

The veto comes as utilities are expanding renewable power, especially solar. Mon Power’s Fort Martin solar facility in Monongalia County became operational in January. It produces 19 megawatts. 

Mon Power is building two other solar projects and seeking approval for two more. 

Last week, the U.S. Department of Energy announced funding up to $129 million to construct a solar facility on two former coal mines in Nicholas County. The governor’s veto should not affect the project.

In a letter to lawmakers Tuesday, Justice said he vetoed the bill to protect the coal industry. Justice himself owns numerous coal companies.

“I fear this well-intentioned bill will further encourage these companies to drop coal generated power and continue to turn toward more expensive options outside of West Virginia,” Justice wrote. “It could also lead to job loss by putting coal mines and coal generating facilities out of business quickly.”

Nearly 90 percent of the state’s power comes from coal, though nationwide, coal use has fallen below 20 percent.