Curtis Tate Published

Upgrade Fort Martin? Buy Pleasants? Either Way, It’s Expensive

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 cost to bring a northern West Virginia power plant into compliance with new federal rules could cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

On Thursday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced the “Good Neighbor Rule,” intended to cut smog across 23 states by 50 percent.

Mon Power’s Fort Martin Power Station in Monongalia County does not have the most advanced system to achieve that. It’s called selective catalytic reduction, and it removes nitrogen oxide from the plant’s emissions.

According to Public Service Commission testimony, equipping the plant with SCR could be expensive.

Stephen Nelson, the CEO of Longview Power, told the PSC that it would cost $500 million or more. States including West Virginia must start achieving NOx reductions within three years.

One solution that’s been proposed: For Mon Power to purchase the Pleasants Power Station in Pleasants County from its current owner, Energy Harbor.

Unlike Fort Martin, Pleasants is equipped with an SCR system. 

However, Nelson also discouraged the PSC from directing Mon Power to buy the Pleasants plant. Like Fort Martin, Pleasants is more than 40 years old and needs more love and care.

Unless a buyer steps forward, the plant will close at the end of May.

Though it isn’t clear what the selling price for Pleasants might be, Mon Power ratepayers would likely cover the cost of acquiring Pleasants or upgrading Fort Martin.

The plan has support from lawmakers. Both chambers of the state legislature adopted a resolution encouraging Mon Power to purchase Pleasants.

U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, the senior Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, supports it, too.

“If that power plant were to shut down, it would have devastating effects economically because of the people that live there and work there,” she said.

To be sure, Nelson, of Longview Power, wants Mon Power to instead sign an agreement to purchase power from his plant near Fort Martin.

Longview’s plant has only been in operation since 2011, and Nelson said it’s more efficient.

Further, Pleasants can only operate until 2028. Energy Harbor did not install a wastewater treatment upgrade the EPA would require to keep the plant running beyond then. Installing the system would be costly, and again, ratepayers would be asked to pay for it.

Mon Power is supposed to make a decision in the coming weeks.