If one completes their Virginia income taxes this year, they may note an obscure tax credit listed on the tax form called “the Virginia Coal and Production Incentive Tax Credit” that gives a tax credit to Virginia mining companies (up to $3 per ton of coal mined). (Code of VA 58.1-433.1) In the latest year for which data are available (2015), the State of Virginia gave out $37 million to 56 corporations to subsidize their mining of coal. This tax boondoggle started in 1988, and has given out so far over $610 million to coal owners and operators. Yes $600 million to encourage more coal mining in our state.
Given our climate emergency, one would have thought that encouraging more coal mining is the last thing on Earth we Virginia taxpayers should be doing. The Virginia Sierra Club and the Virginia Conservation Network have repeatedly called for ending this tax subsidy for coal mine owners and operators. But, the Virginia General assembly has refused to stop this carbon emission madness.
What if this $37 million each year was given to homeowners as a $1,000 tax credit to install their own solar panels or put in $1,000 of insulation and weatherization in their home? This would help 37,000 Virginia homeowners lower their utility bills either through solar panels or just more weatherization and insulation. The home owners’ utility bills would be markedly lower, and so would carbon emissions in Virginia.
Alternatively, this $37 million or a portion of it could be used to pay for re-training, pensions, and re-location of Virginia coal miners who lose their jobs inevitably. There are only about 2,000 coal miners left in Virginia, and their days of employment coming to an end. The State of Virginia could re-train the younger ones, and provide pensions to older workers unable to retain or to relocate to an area in Virginia with low unemployment