West Virginia PSC rejects call to reconsider Mitchell Power Plant decision | News, Sports, Jobs



The Mitchell Power Plant in Marshall County. (File Photo)

CHARLESTON — An effort by environmental and consumer advocate groups to get the West Virginia Public Service Commission to reconsider a decision last year that approved improvements to several power plants, including the Mitchell Power Plant, failed.
In an order released Thursday, the PSC affirmed two orders — one from Aug. 4, 2021, and one from Oct. 12, 2021 — when it approved a certificate of convenience and necessity requested by Appalachian Power and Wheeling Power for the Mitchell Power Plant, the John Amos Power Plant in Putnam County, and the Mountaineer Power Plant in Mason County.
The Oct. 12 order required the companies to keep the plants open until at least 2040 and charge all operational costs to West Virginia customers as long as customers in Virginia and Kentucky don’t share in capacity or energy from the plants.
The additional order gave the companies an opportunity to recover costs associated with the order as long as those costs are found to be reasonably or prudently incurred. It also required the companies to come before the PSC again for approval if there are any changes in the ownership agreement for Mitchell, the Marshall County power plant co-owned by Wheeling Power and Kentucky Power.
“The Commission has explained many times that prematurely shutting down used and useful power plants with many years of remaining life would require billions of dollars in replacement costs that would be in addition to the continuing recovery of unrecovered costs already expended on those power plants,” the PSC order stated.
“We have determined that such a plan is unreasonable and imprudent and in addition to the cost implications would greatly increase West Virginia’s reliance on purchases of energy, which we have determined would be contrary to the interests of West Virginia customers and the economy of the State,” the order continued.
West Virginia Citizen Action Group, Solar United Neighbors and Energy Efficient West Virginia filed the motions asking the PSC to reconsider its earlier orders, along with the PSC’s Consumer Advocate Division. West Virginia Energy Users Group and the Sierra Club also filed responses to the filings.
The groups accused the PSC of cherry-picking cost comparisons and not considering all of the costs of continuing to operate the power plants, that the costs to retrofit the Mitchell plant should have been considered separately, and that the PSC overstepped its statutory authority. The also questioned whether the companies provided adequate notice, whether Wheeling Power had the authority to retrofit Mitchell given that it is co-owned with Kentucky Power, and whether the October order violated constitutional rights to reasonable rates.
“AEP’s West Virginia customers will endure another hike in their monthly bills, to prop up power plant capacity that serves Kentucky customers,” said Emmett Pepper, policy director for Energy Efficient West Virginia, in a statement Friday. “There has been no showing that WV customers will need or use the Mitchell plant’s capacity — and we still don’t know how much this will even cost. Our state Constitution guarantees us a reasonable electricity rate — these rate hikes violate that guarantee.”
The companies sought a 1.5 percent rate increase on electric consumers to fund improvements to the Mitchell and the other plants to bring them in line with federal rules for wastewater, and handling coal ash.
The surcharge works out to 38 cents for customers using at least 1,000 kilowatts per month. The rates, which kicked in last September, are used to cover construction costs for the improvements.
Appalachian Power/Wheeling Power presented two different plans to the PSC last year: a $317 million plan to keep all three power plants open up to 2040, including Mitchell. The second was a $286 million plan that would keep the Amos and Mountaineer plants open, but wind down Mitchell by 2028. Commissioners approved the first plan.
Appalachian Power/Wheeling Power serves more than 387,000 customers across 23 counties in West Virginia.
Steven Allen Adams can be reached at sadams@newsandsentinel.com

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