Pleasants Power Station to be sold or deactivated

PARKERSBURG — The Pleasants Power Station will be sold or deactivated by Jan. 1, the parent company announced on Friday.

FirstEnergy said its Allegheny Energy Supply subsidiary notified PJM Interconnection, the regional transmission organization, of its plan to deactivate the power plant, which is subject to PJM’s review for service reliability impacts, if any.

The announcement follows the decision on Jan. 12 by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to reject the sale of the plant to Monongahela Power Co. and Potomac Edison, also subsidiaries of First-Energy.

The West Virginia Public Service Commission later approved the sale with conditions that First-Energy said, with the federal denial, were unacceptable.

The sale of the plant, owned by Allegheny Power, would have placed it in the regulated market and would have guaranteed it a profit. Mon Power and Potomac Edison are regulated by the Public Service Commission. The sale would have resolved “a projected 10-year energy capacity shortfall and decreased electric bills for customers,” the company said.

“Closing Pleasants is a very difficult choice because of the talented employees dedicated to reliable operation of the station and the communities who have supported the facility for many years. But the recent federal and West Virginia decisions leave FirstEnergy no reasonable option but to expeditiously move forward with deactivation of the plant,” said Charles E. Jones, FirstEnergy president and chief executive officer, in the release from the company. “We will continue to pursue opportunities to sell the plant while planning for deactivation.”

About 190 employees will be impacted, FirstEnergy said. Employees may be eligible for severance benefits if the plant is closed.

The announcement was a surprise and disappointment for Pleasants County officials.

“Very, very much so,” said Jim Cottrill, president of the Pleasants County Commission, who said he received the call Friday morning from the company of the plans.

It was a surprise, he said. Just a few weeks ago at a meeting of the Citizens Advisory Panel, made up of local representatives, everyone was optimistic about the future of the plant, Cottrill said.

“It was a very informative meeting,” he said.

Besides the direct impact upon the employees who work there, there’s the impact on residents whose jobs are connected to the operation of the plant, according to Cottrill.

“Plus what it’s going to do with our tax base,” he said.

The next step is “pray and hope the plant finds a buyer between now and the first of the year,” Cottrill said.

Customers will not lose their electrical service, Stephanie Walton, FirstEnergy spokesman, said.

“Now that FirstEnergy has announced plans to sell or deactivate Pleasants, we urge FirstEnergy and the state government to take proactive steps to ensure that workers are treated fairly and the community can thrive,” said Karan Ireland of Solar United Neighbors of West Virginia, one of the intervenors in both the federal and state cases and a founding member of West Virginians For Energy Freedom.

“The PSC has done its job in protecting ratepayers. The FERC and PSC decisions protected over 530,000 Mon Power and Potomac Edison customers, saving them millions of dollars and saving West Virginia from another major economic punch,” said Ireland.

“What we’re suggesting as far as just transition has been done before,” Ireland said. “The town of Tonawanda in western New York worked with the state to get just transition money to replace local tax revenues once it realized that it faced the imminent closure of a coal-fired power plant in the community. We need a strong policy in place to help communities and workers with transitions.”

A statement also was requested from Gov. Jim Justice of West Virginia.

Jody Murphy, executive director of the Pleasants Area Chamber of Commerce, said he’s going to learn to say “power plant is for sale” in Chinese.

“I’m going to purchase ‘Chinese for Dummies,'” said Murphy, who advocated the sale of the plant to Mon Power and Potomac Edison.

While it is a coal-fired plant, it’s not an older inefficient generating power plant, according to Murphy. The Pleasants Power Station began operation in 1979 and two 650-megawatt units produce power for about 1.3 million homes.

“The plant itself is still good,” he said.

However, not much can be done as everything is in the hands of the utilities, he said. People can be hopeful, Murphy said.

“I don’t think anything can be done but remain optimistic,” he said.

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