Curtis Tate Published

How Much Did PSC Report Cost? That And Other Details Are A Secret

A yellow bulldozer moves a mound of black coal at a power plant in West Virginia.
The coal pile at the Mountaineer Power Plant in Mason County, West Virginia.
David Adkins/West Virginia Public Broadcasting

A consulting firm made recommendations to the Public Service Commission that could affect electricity rates, but some portions of the agreement are secret.

Critical Technologies Consulting of Mesa, Arizona, submitted a proposal last year to the PSC to study Appalachian Power’s coal management practices at its three West Virginia power plants: Mountaineer, Mitchell and John Amos. 

It produced a prudency report and those conclusions could influence the PSC’s decision on whether to approve Appalachian Power’s application to recover $641.7 million from electricity users in West Virginia.

Key details of the proposal are marked as “confidential,” including a detailed breakdown of costs and the proposed consulting services agreement. 

Critical Technologies Consulting was chosen among four firms that submitted proposals. All of the cost information and other details were redacted, or kept from public view.

Of the four appendices to the winning proposal, only the consultants’ resumes were not redacted.

In a Motion for Protective Treatment dated June 16, 2023, PSC staff explained that the information it wanted to shield from public view constituted “trade secrets.” 

It explained that disclosure of such information, including proposed pricing information, risked “increasing the costs to a public agency.”

Usually, information about government proceedings are public, especially when they involve costs to taxpayers, but agencies will sometimes invoke exceptions in open records law to protect what they consider proprietary data.

The PSC held a hearing on Tuesday on the Critical Technologies Consulting report and Appalachian Power’s cost recovery application. The commission heard testimony from the consultants who prepared the report.

Appalachian Power is an underwriter of West Virginia Public Broadcasting.