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Trump directive renews hope for Pleasants Power Station

May allow coal-fueled plant to stay active

From left, Jody Murphy of the Pleasants County Development Authority, Pleasants County Commissioner Jay Powell and Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., flash the thumbs up at a rally April 5 at White Sulphur Springs where President Trump spoke. Murphy and Powell brought with them a letter intended for the president in support of the Pleasants Power Station that will be closed next year if a buyer isn’t found. (Photo Provided)

PARKERSBURG — A directive from the president offers new hope to save the Pleasants Power Station from closing, officials said on Monday.

President Donald Trump on Friday instructed Energy Secretary Rick Perry to develop a plan to prevent the closure of “fuel-secure” plants in the interest of national security. Part of the authority for invoking the emergency powers is under the Cold War-era Defense Production Act of 1950.

It’s a significant development for Pleasants County and the region, Pleasants County Commissioner Jay Powell said. Several hundred jobs and businesses dependent on the plant are at stake, he said.

“This is gigantic,” Powell said.

FirstEnergy announced earlier this year the coal-fueled Pleasants Power Station would close in 2019 unless a buyer is found.

The decision was made after a transfer of the facility to Monongahela Power and Potomac Edison, subsidiaries of First Energy, was rejected by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The transfer would have placed the plant, which employs 200 people, into the regulated market to ensure its profitability.

“…impending retirements of fuel-secure power facilities are leading to a rapid depletion of a critical part of our nation’s energy mix, and impacting the resilience of our power grid,” Trump said. He directed Perry for recommendations to stop the loss of those resources.

“I continue to believe that baseload coal and nuclear plants help maintain electric system resiliency and national security while also playing an irreplaceable role in the regional economy,” Charles E. Jones, president and chief executive officer of FirstEnergy, said. “The company has advocated for solutions that recognize the critical attributes coal and nuclear plants provide because preserving these vital facilities is the right thing to do for the industry, the electric grid and our customers. I am pleased that the federal government is also recognizing this issue.”

In support of the president’s directive on Friday, a 40-page memorandum was prepared that said the federal government has authority to preserve the energy grid through the Defense Production Act and the Federal Power Act under Section 202(c).

“Increasingly, however, due largely to regulatory and economic factors, too many of these fuel-secure plants have retired prematurely and many more have recently announced retirement,” the memorandum said. “Although the lost megawatts of power often are replaced by new generation from natural gas and renewable energy source, this transition comes at the expense of fuel security and resilience.”

The details have yet to be determined; however, an outcome positive for the Pleasants Power Station would offer stability to the present or a future owner, Powell said.

“The devil is in the details,” said Jody Murphy with the Pleasants County Development Authority.

Powell and Murphy in April went to White Sulphur Springs carrying a letter for Trump, who was speaking at a rally. They met with Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., and the three and other state officials have been working the past several months to prevent the closure of the power plant.

“McKinley did a good job for us,” Murphy said.

While they didn’t meet with the president, Powell said the letter was taken to Trump backstage. McKinley also got Murphy and Powell front row seats to the president’s rally, Powell said.

The Pleasants Power Station, which opened in 1979, is comprised of two 650 mw units capable of providing electrical power to more than 1.3 million homes.

“We’re encouraged by the news that President Trump is considering invoking emergency authority to secure our electric grid, and we call on him to act quickly to protect America’s national security interests,” McKinley said in a statement.

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