CHARLESTON — Gov. Jim Justice said Wednesday he still wants to see the power plant at Pleasants near St. Marys preserved, but that it is up to the West Virginia Public Service Commission to decide whether it should be allowed to operate for another year with payers’ choice. Tab.
Speaking during the weekly virtual administration briefing from the Capitol, Justice said he was pleased that First Energy Corp. Monongahela Energy and Potomac Edison submitted a plan to PSC at the end of March to operate the plant for 12 months. period while a more permanent proposal is considered. Pleasants Power is scheduled to close on May 31st.
“I think we should let the PSC do their job and everything and let them dig into every detail,” said Justice. “I’m going to get more and more details. I’m aware of the job or what it’s going to take Mon Power and FirstEnergy and everyone else in terms of keeping the plant open.”
PSC will hold an evidentiary hearing at 9:30 a.m. on April 21 at its headquarters in Charleston to consider a proposal from Mon Power and Potomac Edison regarding the plant. The companies are seeking an order from the PSC no later than April 25 that would allow the companies to enter into a letter of intent with the Texas-based Department of Energy and Environment to operate the plant from June to May 2024.
The companies will pay ETEM to maintain the plant for 12 months, but are also seeking a temporary surcharge to cover the costs of paying ETEM to keep the plant open. The additional cost would increase costs for residential customers by $2.67 per month, $8.44 per month for commercial customers and $4,416 per month for industrial customers. It will raise $36 million over 12 months, or $3 million per month.
The 1,300-megawatt plant burns more than half a million tons of coal annually and has 154 direct employees beyond the hundreds of union workers who service the plant each year and the coal miners who supply the plant. Thursday, April 27, marks the 45th anniversary of the deaths of 51 workers when one of the plant’s cooling towers collapsed due to green concrete, considered one of the worst construction accidents in US history at the time.
“It would be a great shame if the plant died,” said Justice. “If you go back and think about it, there are 154 jobs in Pleasants County. That’s huge for Pleasants County, but not only that, 400 coal mining jobs supplying coal to the plant. It’s huge. The multiplier effect of those jobs is massive. We want to try with every We need to find a methodology and a way to be able to keep this factory open.”
Opponents of keeping the plant open include a number of environmental and consumer advocacy groups. Operating under the banner of West Virginians for Energy Freedom (WV4EF), they argue that it is unfair to keep the plant open on the backs of ratepayers. They also argue that it may cost taxpayers more in the future to keep the plant in compliance with current environmental rules and regulations.
According to WV4EF, customers of Mon Power and Potomac Edison have seen electricity rates increase by 50 percent over the course of 15 years.
“The costs of the proposed rescue plan will fall directly on customers of Mon Power and Potomac Edison, as all power plants owned by regulated utilities are paid for by customers, including the costs of purchasing, operating and maintaining the power plants,” according to the group. “In addition to the immediate expenses of the salvage operation, $80 to $120 million in improvements are needed for the plant to comply with water pollution standards.”
Now that the Mon Power and Potomac Edison cards were on the table, Justice said it was important for the PSC to review their proposal.
“Now that we have the question or delta of where we need to go, let’s now let people dig through the weeds and see what we come back with,” said Justice. “But I’m glad we have a delta and not before when all we had before was ‘we think about it.’ Now at least we have a delta.”
The PSC announced Wednesday evening that it will also hold a public comment hearing at 3:30 pm Thursday, April 20 at PSC headquarters at 201 Brooks Street in Charleston.
“There is an enormous amount of public interest in this issue, with opinions differing widely,” PSC Chair Charlotte Lane said in a statement. “We invite everyone to come and share their suggestions and concerns with us on April 20th. If you are unable to attend in person, you can still submit a written comment.”
The PSC accepts written and online public comments. Written comments for Case No. 22-0793-E-ENEC may be submitted to PO Box 812, Charleston, WV 25323. Comments may be submitted online at psc.state.wv.us by clicking Submit Comment on the PSC homepage.