Curtis Tate Published

Rescue Pleasants Plant For $36 Million. But Produce Power? That Will Cost More

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

Everyone from state lawmakers to county commissioners to Gov. Jim Justice want to find a way to keep the Pleasants Power Station from closing.

“It would be a crying shame for the plant to die. A crying shame,” Justice said in his April 12 media briefing.

But at this point, it’s less than clear what it would take. And it’s also not clear what ratepayers would get in return.

In its report to the PSC last month, Mon Power proposed to operate Pleasants for the 12 months following its current May 31 shutdown date.

The company’s 395,000 customers would pay $3 million a month, or a total of $36 million. That’s a couple of extra dollars a month on the average user’s bill.

However, Mon Power did not indicate that it would be producing any electricity during those 12 months. The $36 million would merely keep the plant’s employees on the payroll and the equipment ready for service.

In more recent filings, Mon Power seemed to indicate it was considering whether to produce power at Pleasants. It would need coal and nitrogen oxide credits.

In those filings, the company said it was looking at transferring both from its Fort Martin Power Station.

As for cost? Data attached to the March report indicated that actually operating Pleasants would cost another $160 million for those 12 months. And that doesn’t include the cost of coal. At $27 million a month, that adds up to another $324 million.

In a filing last week, Mon Power said it had discovered some additional costs to run Pleasants, but it neither specified what those were or how much.

The total cost could be over $500 million. And not everyone thinks ratepayers should be on the hook.

The West Virginia Energy Users Group, which includes the state’s largest manufacturers, opposes the Pleasants proposal. So do the Citizen Action Group, Solar United Neighbors and Energy Efficient West Virginia.

Most significantly, so does the state’s Consumer Advocate Division. A coal analyst recommended last fall on the division’s behalf that Mon Power purchase the plant.

Hannah Catlett, a Mon Power spokeswoman, had no comment beyond what was in the company’s PSC filings. The commission will consider the company’s proposal on Friday.

Justice said it was about preserving jobs.

“The multiplier effect of those jobs is enormous,” he said. “We want to try, with all in us, to find a way. To find a methodology and a way to be able to keep that plant open.”

Later this week, the PSC will hear from members of the public and other stakeholders about whether that can be achieved and if it’s worth the cost.