Op-ed: A thank you to West Virginia for H.B. 207

Thank you! These are such simple words but so often they are never said. Thank you, Gov. Justice, President Carmichael, Speaker Hanshaw and Minority Leaders Miley and Prezioso. Thank you for showing what true leadership is and putting aside all political differences, to pass legislation that removed a B&O tax that unfairly targeted one coal-fired power plant compared to any other generating asset in West Virginia. I will attempt to explain to the people of West Virginia what it is that you have saved.

Pleasants is a 1300 MW coal fired power station capable of supplying power to over 1 million homes. The station’s 90-day onsite coal supply provides the fuel-secure, baseload generation that helps anchor the bulk electric grid during extreme weather events such as the 2014 Polar Vortex. The plant is fully environmentally compliant with existing Scrubber and SCR technologies. It has a talented and dedicated workforce who value the traditions of safety, environmental stewardship and operational excellence.

The plant is a major economic driver for the state providing $400 million of economic impact and an estimated 600 jobs. These employees receive $48.2 million dollars in annual compensation and pay in excess of $1 million in state income taxes.

The plants effect on the region is felt well beyond its fence line. In addition to the 160 family-sustaining jobs provided at the plant, numerous other employers benefit from its economic reach. Pleasants can consume in excess of 3.5 million tons of WV coal a year from mines located in Marshall and Ohio counties. The synthetic gypsum produced during the scrubbing process is sent to a drywall manufacturing plant located 10 miles from the Northern Panhandle. Closer to home, Pleasants, Ritchie, Tyler and Wood counties alone benefit from an estimated $128 million in economic activity and 415 jobs. Many of these jobs are filled by the skilled men and women of our local union construction trades. The plant also is a major purchaser of goods and services from numerous local businesses and vendors.

As important as the plant is to the state and region, there is no place that it is held in higher regard than by its namesake county. Pleasants County and the Board of Education have benefited for 40 years from the local tax dollars they receive from the plant. The plant is a foundational part of the community and as such has assisted in creating a stable tax base within the county. This has allowed the county to complete several projects over the years that might otherwise not have been accomplished, such as the county-wide water project and the construction of an aquatic center. This same financial security enabled the school board to fund and construct a new $27.5 million high school in 2015. The plant pays $1.2 million a year in taxes to the county government and local school board. The loss of these critical dollars would have further decimated their already constrained budgets.

Pleasants is much more than a source of jobs and taxes for our county and schools. It is the countless volunteer hours provided by our employees, the donation of food and money to the local food pantries, and the tithes paid to our churches. Pleasants employees are woven into the fabric of our communities. They are not defined by the title mechanic, electrician and operator. To the public they are known as coach, scout leader and deacon. Many of our employees in the past have answered the call to serve our country and have proudly worn the uniform of the United States armed forces. Today as you read this one of our own, U.S. Army Sargent Malkom Kidd is deployed overseas, defending this great land. Our employees also serve in their local communities. Some have patrolled our streets as auxiliary police officers, while others have donned the turnout gear and rescue packs of our volunteer fire departments. Above all, these employees are dedicated to the around-the-clock pursuit of providing safe, dependable, and environmentally compliant electricity to our fellow West Virginians.

Gov. Justice and leaders of the West Virginia legislature, by removing the B&O tax on Pleasants Power Station you have not provided, as some have suggested a corporate bailout to FES. You have simply leveled the playing field in which Pleasants competes with plants in our state and those beyond its borders. You have helped save the plant from a premature closure. You have sent a message to all those who have and will continue to mine and burn that little black rock that has powered our nation for years. That they have not been forgotten. The fight to save the thermal coal industry is not over and that Pleasants Power Station’s iconic towers will continue to stand as symbol of hope for our embattled industry.

***

Craig Straight is a production supervisor at Pleasants Power Station.

COMMENTS