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Public Service Commission reviews major coal power plant project

Published: Sep. 24, 2021 at 7:20 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The West Virginia Public Service Commission (PSC) is reviewing a request that could once again raise your power bills, after just approving an increase for the exact same project a few months ago.

Appalachian Power and Wheeling Power are now looking to recover more than $443 million by asking the PSC to reopen the case that was first filed last December and decided in August. That ruling allowed the power companies to create a small surcharge on customer bills to bring three coal-fired power plants up to current federal standards.

That ruling assumed AEP customers in Kentucky and Virginia would also pay for part of the project because they use around half of the electricity that is produced by the plants. However, since the PSC ruling, regulators in Kentucky and Virginia have denied the rate increases associated with the projects, claiming they are uneconomical for their residents.

AEP now wants West Virginia customers to cover 100% of the costs to upgrade the John Amos, Mountaineer, and Mitchell plants to meet current federal environmental standards. If the work is not completed, the plants would be forced to close by 2028. No matter what is done, federal guidelines would force the coal-fired plants to completely close by 2040.

During a Friday morning public hearing, members of the public expressed their concern for another increase in their power rates and the problems coal fired power plants can cause through air and water pollution. Other people said these plants need to remain open to support the communities they operate in and the coal economy.

Later in the day, AEP representatives were questioned for nearly six hours by the PSC, consumer advocates, and a number of groups that oppose the case reopening. AEP would not commit to wanting a specific outcome, other than the PSC to allow it to recover all costs associated with the project from West Virginia customers. Representatives would also not say how long the aging plants would remain open for if the investment is made.

Wes Holden used his time during the public comment period to ask Commissioner Bill Raney to recuse himself from the case because of his former role as president of the West Virginia Coal Association. Chairwoman Charlotte Lane called the comments inappropriate, but Raney did not return to the day’s hearings after the lunch break. It is not clear if Raney will recuse himself from the case at this time.

AEP has requested the PSC make a decision in this case by Oct. 13 due to deadlines for filing plans to keep the plants open or begin the closure process.

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