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Saving Coal-Fired Generating Plant

Eight years of former President Barack Obama’s assault on the coal and coal-fired power industries closed scores of mines and generating stations. President Donald Trump’s ongoing campaign to get the nation back to an “all-of-the-above” energy policy is reversing that campaign — but only after an enormous amount of damage has been done.

Among generating plants that were to be closed during the Obama administration is the Pleasants Power Station at Willow Island, just south of St. Marys. But First Energy, which owns the facility, gave it a reprieve.

Now, however, it appears the plant’s future is up to state officials. Gov. Jim Justice is asking legislators to consider action he believes could be the difference in the station remaining open or closing.

House of Delegates members were gathered today in Charleston to resume an ongoing special session that opened earlier this summer. State senators are to go back into session Tuesday.

On both chambers’ agendas is an item added by the governor on Friday. It is a request that the Pleasants Power Station be exempted from a tax Justice says no other generating plant pays.

Pleasants Power pays a state business and operations tax, according to news reports, because it is classed as a “merchant power plant.” That is defined as a generating station operating in the wholesale market without long-term power purchase agreements for the electricity they produce.

Obviously, that mode of operation by itself is more risky than having contracts in place for long-term power purchases. The state tax — again, not paid by other generating plants in West Virginia — adds to the burden.

Justice said First Energy officials told him “they were getting crushed by this tax.” He added that Department of Revenue officials believe they can “make it work” to exempt the plant.

Pleasants Power is a major generating station, at 1,300-megawatt capacity. It employs 160 people directly. Many others rely on it indirectly.

Lawmakers should examine the proposal closely, of course. But if, as Justice says, Pleasants Power is paying a tax not borne by other plants, simple fairness suggests the governor’s proposal be approved.

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