Curtis Tate Published

Pleasants Plant Could Get 12-Month Reprieve Under Mon Power Proposal

White steam billows from one of the concrete cooling towers at the Pleasants Power Station in Pleasants County.
White steam billows from one of the concrete cooling towers at the Pleasants Power Station in Pleasants County.
Janet Kunicki/West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The embattled Pleasants Power Station in Pleasants County could be operated, on a temporary basis, by Mon Power under a proposal the company submitted to state regulators Friday.

If the West Virginia Public Service Commission approves the plan, Mon Power would operate Pleasants for 12 months beyond its planned shutdown at the end of May. It would recover the $3 million per month cost through a surcharge on ratepayers.

According to the filing, the average residential user would pay $2.67 more each month. All categories of customers would pay roughly 2.2% more each month.

Public comments on the proposal would need to be submitted to the PSC no later than April 24.

During the 12-month interim period, Mon Power would conduct further study to see if acquiring the plant outright makes sense for the company and its customers.

State leaders, including Gov. Jim Justice and the legislature, have pushed to keep the plant open. It employs more than 150 workers and contributes to the local tax base.

Mon Power acknowledged in its filing that the plan carries short- and long-term risks.

First, the plant has no coal deliveries scheduled and is using what it has on site. Second, it has no nitrogen oxide credits past May 31, meaning it may not be able to operate all summer. If the plant closes then, its employees will be let go on July 15.

New federal regulations involving wastewater treatment and smog could challenge the ongoing operation of the plant and raise the cost to keep it running.

Critics of the proposal for Mon Power to purchase Pleasants have said it would be better to close the plant and take advantage of federal resources available to assist coal and power plant communities.

Emmett Pepper, policy director for Energy Efficient West Virginia, said he’s reviewing the new proposal.

Still, he said, “Mon Power is asking for a rate increase for 12 months to subsidize this plant without taking evidence on the prudence of the rate increase, whether paying for this plant will benefit ratepayers, and whether ratepayers even need its power.”

Pleasants could have closed sooner, but Justice and lawmakers gave it a $12 million tax break in 2019 to keep in operation.