Officials search for options with power plant’s future in doubt

The owner of the Pleasant Power Station has announced plans to sell or shut it down, but a county commissioner says officials are exploring alternatives.

“We are looking into solutions. We were looking into solutions even prior to because we know fossil fuel has had rough times at times,” said Pleasants County Commissioner Jay Powell, speaking today on MetroNews’ “Talkline.”

“We hope our plant can be the last one standing, and we’re working to make that happen.”

The power plant’s owner, Energy Harbor, announced that as it aims to transition to a carbon-free company, it will sell or deactivate plants that include the Pleasants Power Station at Willow Island in 2023.

Energy Harbor has filed deactivation notices with PJM Interconnection, the regional transmission organization. The plant deactivations are subject to PJM’s review for reliability effects.

West Virginia authorities have expressed significant concerns in recent years over the plant’s economic viability.

During the summer of 2019, Gov. Jim Justice pushed a bill during a special session of the Legislature to eliminate the business and occupation tax for the Pleasants Power Station. The owner, First Energy Solutions, was going through bankruptcy at the time and emerged as Energy Harbor.

The tax had brought in about $12.5 million a year for the state, but lawmakers overwhelmingly decided they needed to attempt to protect the jobs of 160 power plant employees. Officials also noted that the plant has been supplied by West Virginia coal.

Jim Justice

“Nothing on this planet could make me more proud than just right now, this minute, being able to sign this bill,” Justice said at the time. “I mean it when I tell you that the coal industry in our state is unbelievably important and we’ve got to preserve it in every way.”

Now the future of the plant is dire. Powell said local officials have been in contact with the Governor’s Office again.

“I think there’s some options there. I don’t want to be too optimistic; however, I think there’s some options there,” Powell said. “And I think there’s somethings we’ve got in the works that we can counteract this. “

He continued, “One option, obviously, is someone else buy it out. I do know there’s been some serious inquiries about it, believe it or not. That’s certainly an option.”

But he said solidifying a coal supply contract is a key. Another issue is an estimated $5 million upgrade to a wastewater treatment plant. “So those aren’t unsurmountable goals. Those are realistic goals either for the current or next owner.”

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