- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 3, 2015

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin signed a bill deleting a state energy portfolio Tuesday, the first proposal to hit his desk from the newly minted Republican Legislature.

The Democratic governor approved the repeal of the Alternative and Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard after lawmakers overwhelmingly voted for it. Previously, Tomblin said the law wouldn’t make a big difference, one way or another.

“In 2009 when the Legislature approved West Virginia’s Alternative Renewable Energy Portfolio, the Act had overwhelming support from business and industry,” Tomblin said in a news release. “We understand economic drivers and factors change over time, and the Act as it was passed in 2009 is no longer beneficial for our state.”

The standard requires utilities serving at least 30,000 residential customers to generate 25 percent of their electricity with renewable or alternative power sources by 2025. City-owned utilities and rural electric cooperatives are exempt.

With alternative power’s broad definition in state law, even environmental groups weren’t particularly enthusiastic about the standard. Most of the energy sources that qualified for credits came from burning coal in some fashion.

FirstEnergy official Sammy Gray has said his company could comply with requirements without increased costs, lost jobs, higher rates or business plan changes.

Appalachian Power officials have weighed in similarly, also pointing out the company helped write the law.

The state Coal Association helped craft the standard, too. However, it said it now supported the repeal amid increased federal regulations and legal impacts on the industry.

Many GOP statehouse candidates had campaigned on scrapping the standard before the GOP secured its first legislative majorities since the 1930s in the 2014 election. The Republicans touted it as beneficial to the struggling Central Appalachian coal industry, while Democrats questioned whether it’d have much, if any impact.

The Republican Party is still using the standard against Democratic U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, who signed it into law as governor in 2009 and may seek that office again next year.

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