Lawmakers say power bill was only about economy

Discuss Justice-backed bill to save Pleasants County power plant
Published: Jul. 23, 2020 at 4:52 PM EDT
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PARKERSBURG, W.Va (WTAP) - Two lawmakers who voted in 2019 to pass a West Virginia bill keeping a Pleasants County power station open, defend the process by which it was approved.

The measure providing tax incentives-specifically, repealing a business and occupation tax on the Pleasants Power station at Willow Island-was approved overwhelming in a special session last July that lasted about one day.

Governor Jim Justice, who called the special session, came to Willow Island on July 30 of last year to sign the bill into law.

But local members of the West Virginia House of Representatives and State Senate says it was more than Justice’s backing that led the legislature to pass the measure.

”I thought that the legislature saw the need to do something,” said Senator Donna Boley, whose home is in Pleasants County, “and, if I remember correctly, over in Morgantown, that power plant was not paying those taxes, and most people thought it was only fair that Pleasants Power would not have to pay.”

“Once we removed those B and O taxes, they were able to bid in the free market,” said Wood County Delegate and House Finance Committee member Vernon Criss, “and be able to save the jobs and the production of electricity at that power house.”>

The governor’s opponent in the November election, Democrat Ben Salango, has cited news reports saying one of Justice’s coal companies owed millions of dollars to the plant’s operator, First Energy Solutions. He also noted reports the governor has taken campaign contributions from the utility.

Salango has drawn comparisons to an alleged bribery scandal, resulting Tuesday in the arrest of Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, related to the passage of a bill aimed at the continued operation of two nuclear power plants in Northern Ohio.

Justice Wednesday denied Salango’s claims. He says he supported the action to save jobs and Pleasants County’s economic base.

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