Murray Energy Chief Robert Murray May Buy Power Plants

Photo provided Murray Energy Corp. officials confirm they are considering a purchase of coal-fired power plants, such as the FirstEnergy 1,300-megawatt plant at Willow Island in Pleasants County, West Virginia.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE –Instead of relying on publicly traded utilities such as American Electric Power and FirstEnergy Corp. to purchase his coal, Robert E. Murray said he believes he may have a better idea –to just buy generators and let his company run them.

“It’s a new concept,” said Murray, chairman, president and CEO of Murray Energy Corp. Murray made his comments this week during the Bloomberg New Energy Finance Future of Energy Summit in New York City.

“If you control the fuel supply, you can price it how you want it,” he said.

Murray Energy spokesman Gary Broadbent confirmed Murray made those comments, which initially were published by Bloomberg Markets.

“It’d be the culmination of my life’s work,” said Murray.

Murray operates several coal mines throughout the U.S., including the Century Mine near Beallsville, the Ohio County Mine near Benwood and the Marshall County Mine near Cameron. Bloomberg reports that Murray is looking to buy some assets from bankrupt FirstEnergy Solutions, which is a newly formed subsidiary of Akron, Ohio-based FirstEnergy Corp. The parent firm is not in bankruptcy.

The FirstEnergy Solutions assets under consideration include the huge W.H. Sammis Plant in Jefferson County. The Sammis plant, which is so large that a portion of Ohio 7 runs beneath it, was an Ohio Edison operation until that company merged with Centerior in 1997 to form FirstEnergy.

Thomas Mulligan, a FirstEnergy Solutions spokesman, said the company had no comment on a possible sale of the Sammis plant to Murray.

In February, FirstEnergy officials said they would close the 1,300-megawatt plant at Willow Island in Pleasants County, West Virginia.

“I am not aware of any potential sale at this time,” said FirstEnergy spokeswoman Jennifer Young of the West Virginia plant.

Another major electricity provider is Columbus, Ohio-based AEP. The firm deactivated the 630-megawatt Kammer plant in Marshall County in June 2015, along with several other coal-fired plants throughout Appalachia.

At the time of these shutdowns, AEP officials were trying to comply with pending Obama administration environmental regulations, specifically the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards and the Clean Power Plan.

Even though President Donald Trump signed an executive order to overturn the CPP upon taking office, it does not seem this was enough to reverse the shift away from coal-fired power. Murray said he hopes to reverse this.

“If you can dig coal out of the ground, you sure as heck can run a power plant,” said Murray during the New York event. “We can run power plants better than the utilities can.”

Meanwhile, in his prepared remarks, Murray continued to urge the Trump administration to invoke the Federal Power Act. According to officials at Harvard Law School, this measure would “carve coal-fired and nuclear-powered generators out of the competitive market and provide them with a rate that guaranteed their profitability.”

In a 5-0 vote earlier this year, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission board members rejected this idea.

In his prepared speech, Murray said he is asking Trump to bypass the “feckless FERC.”

“I have dedicated my life to the service of our coal miners, and to the energy needs of our country,” said Murray. “We finally have a president who understands the importance of our contributions to America.”

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