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WV Senate passes carbon offset bill estimated to cost state millions

By Mike Tony, Charleston Gazette-Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Senate has passed a bill opposed by property owner rights and environmental advocates that would regulate forest carbon offset credits at an estimated cost of millions of dollars to the state.

The Senate on Wednesday passed Senate Bill 618 in a 27-5 vote, advancing it to the House of Delegates on the final day for most bills to be passed out of their house of origin in the 2024 regular legislative session.

But a separate bill aimed at restricting carbon offset agreements, Senate Bill 822, was languishing on its final reading in the Senate with an uncertain fate as of press time Wednesday evening.

SB 822 would impose an annual excise tax of 15% of gross payment on a carbon offset agreement if the agreement doesn’t prevent economic development or “substantially restrict” extraction of minerals or timber. The tax would be 50% if it does.

SB 822 also would set a 20-year maximum cap on any agreement that restricts development of land and minerals or harvesting of timber from forests to capture, sequester or offset carbon. The cap would apply to agreements executed or recorded after SB 822 takes effect.

SB 822 was moved back in the Senate’s agenda after opposition on the Senate floor from Minority Leader Mike Woelfel, D-Cabell, and Minority Whip Robert Plymale, D-Wayne, two of the Republican supermajority chamber’s three Democrats.

“Why are we taking away the property owner’s right to manage his property and his timber as he or she sees fit?” Woelfel asked.

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