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Wheeling Power, Appalachian Power Seeking Larger Rate Increases To Keep Plants Open

File Photo - Mitchell Power Plant

CHARLESTON — After already approving a surcharge to help fund improvements at three coal-fired power plants, including the Mitchell Power Plant in Marshall County, the West Virginia Public Service Commission is taking public comment as the power companies seek to reopen the case and seek a larger surcharge.

The commission scheduled a public comment period from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. Friday at its offices in Charleston in a reopened case regarding improvements to the Mitchell Power Plant, the John Amos Power Plant in Putnam County and the Mountaineer Power Plant in Mason County. An evidentiary hearing also will take place at 9:30 a.m. Friday.

The PSC approved a certificate of convenience and necessity requested by Appalachian Power and Wheeling Power in August.

The companies were seeking a 1.62% rate increase, 38 cents for customers using at least 1,000 kilowatts per month, on electric consumers to fund improvements to Mitchell and the other plants to bring them in line with federal rules for wastewater and handling coal ash. Total cost to West Virginia ratepayers was $23.5 million.

However, a similar request made to the Kentucky Public Service Commission (Kentucky Power owns half of the Mitchell plant) was denied, while the Virginia State Corporation Commission denied part of the request for cost recovery for improvements to Amos and Mountaineer. As a result, the Public Service Commission in West Virginia granted a petition Sept. 9 by Appalachian Power and Kentucky Power to reopen the case it approved last month.

If the PSC grants the request of Appalachian Power and Wheeling Power approving its new rate recovery plan for the projects at the three plants, the cost for West Virginia ratepayers would increase from $23.5 million to $48 million. The companies are asking the commission to rule on their request by Oct. 13 when the companies must inform the state Department of Environmental Protection whether they intend to keep the plants operating beyond 2028.

“Because (Virginia) did not approve cost recovery for the (effluent limitation guidelines) compliance work at Amos and Mountaineer, and (Kentucky) did not approve ELG compliance work or cost recovery at Mitchell, the companies must seek recovery of the West Virginia and Virginia jurisdictional costs (i.e., 100 percent of the costs) of the ELG compliance work at Amos and Mountaineer, as well as the West Virginia and Kentucky jurisdictional costs (i.e., 100 percent of the costs) of the ELG compliance work at Mitchell, from this Commission in order to proceed with the projects to allow all three plants to remain operational beyond 2028,” attorneys for Appalachian Power and Wheeling Power wrote in their petition.

Environmental groups and consumer advocates are calling for the Public Service Commission to reject the petition from the power companies. Emmett Pepper, counsel for West Virginia Citizen Action Group, Solar United Neighbors and legal and policy director for Energy Efficient West Virginia, accused the companies of “unlawfulness, unjustness and unreasonableness” by forcing West Virginians to bear the total costs of the improvements.

“Rather than change course or develop a proposal to retrofit only enough generating capacity to serve their West Virginia customers, the Companies have come back to this Commission seeking extraordinary relief,” Pepper wrote. “In other words, under the Companies’ request, West Virginia customers — who have already experienced a 150% increase in their electric rates over the past fifteen years — would become the environmental compliance piggy bank for customers in other states.”

Pepper said the Oct. 13 DEP deadline used by the power companies to push for an expedited decision from the PSC is merely a deadline to decide whether to retrofit the plants by the end of 2025 or retire the plants by 2028.

“All the false urgency set forth in the companies’ petition has done is led to a proposed hyper-truncated process that would deny the parties their due process rights to discovery, testimony and cross examination and would make any decision approving the companies’ petition highly vulnerable on appeal,” Pepper wrote.

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