Curtis Tate Published

Groups Say PSC Should Not Order Mon Power To Buy Pleasants Plant

Emmett Pepper.jpg

West Virginia Citizen Action Group, Solar United Neighbors and Energy Efficient West Virginia say Mon Power should not be ordered to purchase the Pleasants Power Station.

The 43-year-old coal-fired plant in Pleasants County is scheduled to shut down next year. Owner Energy Harbor, though, is looking for a buyer.

The state’s consumer advocate has submitted expert testimony to the Public Service Commission recommending that Mon Power buy the plant.

Emmett Pepper, an attorney for Energy Efficient West Virginia and a member of the Charleston city council, says the same witness testified several years ago against buying the plant.

“I don’t know what’s different,” Pepper said. “It’s shocking to me that the Consumer Advocate Division would advocate for buying a power plant that was broadly rejected as not being cost-effective for ratepayers.”

The PSC will take up the matter in an evidentiary hearing in Charleston next week. In August, Mon Power and Potomac Edison asked the PSC for approval to recover $184 million in fuel costs from its ratepayers. That translates to an $11 a month increase for the average residential customer.

Pepper says rather than investing in an old, inefficient coal plant, the commission should be helping electricity customers make their homes more energy efficient or make it easier for them to generate their own power.

In separate rebuttal testimony, Mon Power expressed skepticism at the consumer advocate’s recommendation that it purchase the Pleasants plant.

It was supposed to shut down before now, but state lawmakers bailed it out with a $12 million tax break in 2019.

The PSC has issued rulings in the past year and a half in favor of keeping the state’s coal fired power plants in operation for as long as possible.

But Pepper says saving Pleasants should not come at the expense of ratepayers, who have seen their electric bills increase over the past 15 years.

“They barely mention residential rates in their testimony, and they downplay the $11 a month electric bill increase for our ratepayers,” he said. “Maybe that’s not significant for the D.C.-based expert witness, but it is for a lot of West Virginia families.”