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Industrial Group Backs Reversing Higher Power Rates That Would Keep Mitchel Plant Operational Until 2040

Photo by Scott McCloskey A trade group representing heavy industrial users of electricity in West Virginia lent its support to a request for reconsideration of a Public Service Commission order that would put the cost of improvements at three power plants, including Marshall County’s Mitchell Plant, on the shoulders of West Virginia ratepayers.

CHARLESTON — A trade group representing heavy industrial users of electricity in West Virginia lent its support to a request for reconsideration of a Public Service Commission order that could put the cost of power plant improvements squarely on the shoulders of ratepayers.

The West Virginia Energy Users Group filed a reply Monday to a petition for reconsideration before the West Virginia Public Service Commission filed at the end of October by West Virginia Citizen Action Group, Solar United Neighbors and Energy Efficient West Virginia.

The groups, joined by the PSC’s Consumer Advocate Division, are requesting the PSC reconsider its Oct. 12 order approving a plan by Appalachian Power and Wheeling Power to make environmental improvements to the Amos Power Plant in Putnam County, the Mountaineer Power Plant in Mason County, and the Mitchell Power Plant in Marshall County.

The West Virginia Energy Users Group consists of some of the state’s largest commercial and industrial users of electricity, including The Chemours Company, Constellium Rolled Products, Rockwool, Weyerhaeuser Company, and Eagle Natrium.

While ESG supports the proposed improvements for the three plants that include changing how plants dispose of coal ash (CCR) and how wastewater is discharged from plants (ELG), ESG believes the costs should be borne by the companies and not residential and industrial energy users.

The PSC signed off on improvements to the plants in August, but regulators in Kentucky and Virginia did not approve the improvements, requiring Appalachian Power and Wheeling Power to file a petition with the PSC in September to re-open the August case.

“…If the companies believe that ELG investments are economic and necessary for their system then they and their shareholders are free to bear the cost of these investments and seek recovery of the costs jurisdictional to Virginia and Kentucky at a future time when the actual prudency of those investments and a complete review of the justification and reasonableness of those rates can be reviewed under a full evidentiary process,” wrote Barry Naum, an attorney representing EUG.

In his reply to the PSC, Naum said the timing of a Sept. 24 evidentiary hearing combined with the PSC’s order in favor of the power companies on Oct. 12 did not give the appearance of due process.

The companies are seeking a 3.3% increase for West Virginia ratepayers to help subsidize environmental improvements at the three plants in order to keep the plants operating until at least 2040. The cost to state taxpayers for the environmental upgrades would increase from $23.5 million to $48 million per year for 30 years.

“WVEUG agrees…that the Commission’s October 12, 2021, Order…may violate due process and ratemaking principles designed to protect the captive ratepayers of (the companies) and the West Virginia public from unreasonable utility rates,” Baum wrote.

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