— Article Submitted By: Morgan County USA
In 2015, West Virginia State Senator Charles Trump (R-Morgan) was the lead sponsor of a little-noticed bill in the West Virginia Senate: SB 390.
The bill was written by the natural gas industry. (In his 2014 campaign, Senator Trump took in thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from fossil fuel companies—including natural gas companies.) The bill delivers corporate welfare to a powerful industry that is pushing similar legislation in states around the country. But only West Virginia and a handful of other states have passed it.
The new law effectively shifts the burden of paying for construction of new natural gas pipelines from the corporation to existing ratepayers in the state. The bill was ramrodded through the legislature and signed by the governor with little notice.
Even the natural gas industry’s prime competitors—the propane industry—didn’t know that the bill had passed the West Virginia legislature until they read in 2016 that Mountaineer Gas was proposing a pipeline that would take advantage of the law’s provisions.
The new law means that consumers across the state of West Virginia will be paying for the newly proposed Mountaineer Gas pipeline expansion in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia—before any new customers are lined up, before construction begins—even before it is certain that the pipeline will be built.
TransCanada is proposing to build a feeder pipeline that would cut south from the Pennsylvania/Maryland border—then under the C&O Canal and Potomac River to Morgan County (WV). If TransCanada fails to gain approval from the National Park Service, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and the state of Maryland for the feeder pipeline, then the proposed Mountaineer Gas pipeline in West Virginia will have no gas to carry east from Morgan County to Berkeley and Jefferson Counties.
The law effectively shifts the risks of new pipeline investments from the corporation’s shareholders to its customers. In supporting the proposed new Mountaineer Gas pipeline, and SB 390, Senator Trump emphasized the long-time desire of U.S. Silica to gain access to natural gas. U.S. Silica, one of the nation’s leading suppliers of silica sand, frac sand, and other industrial minerals (with a location in Berkeley Springs), is currently supplied with propane gas from Blue Flame in Berkeley Springs.
The proposed Mountaineer Gas pipeline would cut east from Lover’s Leap on the West Virginia side of the Potomac River through U.S. Silica’s property to Pious Ridge.
Senator Trump likes to repeat industry talking points that solar and other renewable energies can’t compete with fossil fuels without “subsidies” from the government. But governments give far more in corporate welfare to the fossil fuel industry than they give to the renewable energy industry—by about 100 to 1.
By shepherding SB 390 into law, Senator Trump proved himself a handmaiden to West Virginia’s fossil fuel corporate interests.