A bill to protect West Virginia’s oil, coal, and natural gas industries has taken effect after the legislature passed the bill weeks ago and Republican Governor Jim Justice allowed it to become law. The bill gives the state treasurer the ability to stop state agencies from making contracts with banks and financial institutions that have targeted traditional energy industries through divestment.
Senate Bill 262 passed the West Virginia legislature in mid-March and headed to the desk of Justice, who just “let [the] bill become law without his signature” according to the Charleston Gazette-Mail. The bill was suggested to the legislators by state Treasury Secretary Riley Moore (R).
“We are leading the way to protect our coal, oil and natural gas workers and companies from unfair, un-American boycotts of these critical energy industries,” Moore said. “This law now puts the banking sector on notice: If you refuse to do business with our people, we won’t give you our people’s business.”
SB 262 allows the state treasurer and his office to form a “Restricted Financial Institution List,” which can be used to delineate which banks state agencies could be approved to work with. It essentially means the state treasurer can ensure that state agencies cannot work with financial institutions that divest from the oil and gas industry.
According to the Gazette-Mail, the bill also stipulates that the treasurer needs to notify a financial institution 45 days before its placement on the “Restricted Financial Institution List,” giving it time to respond and demonstrate that “it is not boycotting energy companies.”
“At a time when energy demand is skyrocketing and consumers are bearing the brunt of generationally high inflation, it makes absolutely no sense for financial institutions to cut off capital and financing to these legal, profitable industries simply because they don’t align with their radical social and political agendas,” Moore stated.
After the legislature passed the bill initially, Moore noted that the bill was important for making America energy independent and protecting American jobs.
“It’s time to fight back against those who are trying to wipe out thousands of middle-class jobs, and once again put America first and restore our energy independence,” the Republican official said.
The bill aimed at protecting the coal, oil, and natural gas industries comes after gas prices have hit record highs in recent weeks, though the prices have seen a small dip in recent days. The average gas price on Tuesday according to AAA, was $4.17 per gallon, 16 cents below the high of $4.33 on March 11. Still, the current price represents a large jump from this time last year when the average price was $2.87.