Opponents, supporters talk Pleasants Power Station sale

Photos by Jeffrey Saulton Jean Ambrose, of Parkersburg, speaks against the sale of the Pleasants Power Station during a public meeting Wednesday in the Parkersburg City Building.

PARKERSBURG — Those for and against the proposed purchase of the Pleasants Power Station by Monongahela Power Co. and Potomac Edison Co. made their voices heard during a public comment meeting with the West Virginia Public Service Commission Wednesday.

During the two-hour meeting Wednesday in the Parkersburg City Building, 30 people made statements to PSC Chairman Michael A. Albert. Their statements will be part of the record the commission will consider when making its ruling to reject or approve the sale of the plant by Allegheny Energy Supply, officials said.

Monongahela Power Co., Potomac Edison Co. and Allegheny Energy Supply are all subsidiaries of Ohio-based FirstEnergy Corp.

Pleasants Power Station is a nonregulated or competitive electricity generating plant, meaning market forces set its rates. Allegheny Power Supply is FirstEnergy’s nonregulated competitive power plant subsidiary. Mon Power and Potomac Edison are regulated electric companies, meaning the state PSC sets their electric rates.

Constructed between 1978 and 1980, the Pleasants Power Station is located at Willow Island along the Ohio River in Pleasants County, upstream from Parkersburg. It has two 650-megawatt coal-fired turbines that generate 1,300 megawatts of electricity.

Wood County resident Jean Ambrose was among those speaking against the proposed sale.

“I’m a Mon Power customer and I’m opposed to this sale,” she said. “I live in a rural area of Wood County and our electrical service is not very good.”

Ambrose said people in rural areas pay more for electric power service than those in cities.

“We need you (the PSC) to create policies and incentives to adopt technologies that would increase the reliability and sustainability of our electrical grid,” Ambrose said. “Your mission statement says you want to be a nationally recognized leader in utility regulation and you want to improve the standard of living and quality of life for the people of West Virginia.”

Ambrose said she does not see how the sale will help her electrical service, but she claims it will tie up Mon Power resources for many years, and “tie our region to support an aging plant when everyone around us is moving to natural gas and increasing the use of renewables to generate electricity.”

Ambrose said she would pay a premium if Mon Power was using its resources to transition to the electrical system of the future.

Belmont Mayor John Fitzpatrick spoke in favor of the sale.

“It’s not often when a small-town mayor gets to speak to an issue of statewide importance,” he said. “But that is exactly what Pleasants Power Station means to our community and to the entire state of West Virginia.”

Fitzpatrick said Mon Power has shown it needs more capacity and Pleasants Power Station is the most cost-effective purchase available to provide access to electric power.

“We need this just not for our homes, but for industrial development,” he said. “It contributes to the state and local tax base funding government services and schools. These revenues flow to all West Virginia cities and counties.”

Fitzpatrick said Belmont finds the coal severance funds generated by the power station of great value. He said blocking the sale will relegate it to an industrial grave yard and result in the loss of more than 200 jobs directly.

The Rev. Janice Hill, of Parkersburg, spoke against the sale.

“I am here tonight to ask you to vote against the proposed sale,” she said. “If this was such a great deal for West Virginia, why is it being sold? The risk falls on Mon Power and Potomac Edison’s customers. As our recent past indicates, and not the unrealistic optimistic assumptions that things will be different in the future, the risk will be great.”

Hill contended if the risks were not great the power station would not be for sale.

“I am not willing to take what they easily pass off as a good deal for us,” she said.

Jill Parsons, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of the Mid-Ohio Valley, said the chamber supported the sale of the Pleasants Power Station.

“Not only will this transaction allow FirstEnergy to continue meeting the ever growing need of customers far into the future, it will also be a long-standing member of our community,” Parsons said.

Parsons said keeping the plant open will allow the state and region to retain 200 well-paying jobs that the state has had trouble attracting in recent years.

“As a chamber of commerce we represent the interests of businesses in the community as a whole,” Parsons said. “We are the voice of business in the region.”