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WV Chamber supports bills regarding natural gas power plants, child care providers

West Virginia is one of the largest producers of natural gas in the country, but it continues to lag behind other states when it comes to natural-gas-fired power plants.

According to the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, the permitting process is to blame for much of it.

“West Virginia has lost three major proposed natural gas power plants that were tied up in the court system and permitting process for extended periods of time, causing investors to fall off,” the chamber said in its weekly update of bills the state business organization is supporting during the current legislative session in Charleston.

West Virginia Chamber of Commerce Vice President of Policy and Advocacy Brian Dayton says Senate Bill 188 can speed up the permitting process, while also locating future sites for natural gas power plants.

“This is a very, very important bill that the West Virginia Chamber is strongly supporting,” he said. “It would basically speed up the permitting process for natural gas generation in West Virginia. That bill would also direct the Secretary of Economic Development to locate sites throughout the state that would be suitable for the building of these plants.”

The responses show a receptiveness among voters, said Brian Dayton, vice president of policy and advocacy with the chamber.

Dayton said West Virginia doesn’t have any combined cycle natural gas plants.

“Just across the river in Ohio, we have 13,” he said. “Just north of us there are 26. These plants are coming online left and right, and they’re selling directly to the grid.”

West Virginia depends on coal-fired facilities and Dayton says these new plants would not be displacing any jobs that are provided by the coal industry.

“The reality is these plants are going to be coming online we would like to have the benefit of them coming online in West Virginia as well,” he said.

The chamber also supports a stronger reimbursement rate for child-care providers as found in House Bill 2854.

“This is a very important piece of legislation for day care facilities throughout the state,” Dayton said.

Dayton says prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, day care facilities were reimbursed for any children paid for by the state based on attendance rather than enrollment.

“Now, what that means is that there’s day care facilities have to hold those slots available, but if the children didn’t show up, then they didn’t get paid for that. However, due to COVID, the funding that came in from the federal government, that system was changed to based on enrollment,” he said. “HB2854 would continue that going forward and also put some performance metrics in place to make sure that the child care facilities are safely operated and the staff are receiving the proper professional development and so forth. We are very pleased to see move forward because this has been an important issue that is needed addressed for a long time.”

Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tricia Ball says it is imperative that barriers to employment are lowered to increase the state’s workforce participation rate. She believes one of the biggest barriers is child care.

“We need to be doing everything we can to help these businesses thrive so we can keep open those child care spots available that allow their parents to maintain employment or enter the workforce,” she said.

The state chamber also wants legislation to expand a tax credit that was made available last year through Senate Bill 656.

“There are a lot of employers in West Virginia who are already providing day care facilities and we want to make sure that they’re given an incentive to keep those facilities open because let’s face it, running a day care facility is very expensive,” Dayton said. “This really does get at the one of the major problems with workforce in West Virginia. In too many instances for many families, it is actually more economically beneficial for one parent to stay out of the workforce and watch the children. So making day care more affordable, more available, should help out with our overall child care situation in West Virginia.”

Story by Fred Pace, The Herald-Dispatch


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