Curtis Tate Published

Fate Of West Virginia Coal Plants May Rest With Virginia Regulators


Appalachian Power said it could decide to close the John Amos and Mountaineer power plants in 2028 if the Virginia Corporation Commission denies its request to make upgrades to them.

The company wants to spend $250 million on wastewater treatment projects at the coal-burning plants to bring them into compliance with federal environmental rules.

The projects would enable them to keep operating until 2040. Virginia electricity customers would pay about half the cost through a fee on their monthly bills.

Earlier this month, the commission’s senior hearing examiner recommended denying the request and said Appalachian Power should replace the plants with renewable power.

In a filing with the commission on Monday, the company pushed back against that finding, saying the wastewater treatment projects are the best value for ratepayers.

The company wrote that customers would be subject to a rate increase when the plants close, to pay for replacement capacity as well as the transmission upgrades needed to distribute it.

However, that would be true whether the plants close in 2028, 2040 or sometime in between.

West Virginia’s Public Service Commission has yet to make a decision on the wastewater treatment projects at the Amos, Mountaineer and Mitchell plants.

Earlier this month, Kentucky’s Public Service Commission denied the company’s request for similar upgrades to the Mitchell plant. Without them, the plant would have to close in 2028.

Appalachian Power and Wheeling Power want to submit additional testimony on what it would cost West Virginia utility customers to bear the entire cost of completing the Mitchell upgrades, or completing them on one of the plant’s two units. The other unit would then shut down in 2028.

Environmental and energy efficiency groups, consumer advocates and the commission’s staff oppose the companies’ request to submit the additional testimony. They say the companies should instead submit a new application to the commission or reopen the current application.

Public testimony and comments in West Virginia have favored keeping the plants in operation, but they have found few allies in Kentucky or Virginia.