June 1, 2022 - The president of the West Virginia Coal Association is pitching partial government ownership of an economically-endangered power plant.
Chris Hamilton made that pitch to the recently-restored West Virginia Public Energy Authority in support of the Pleasants Power Station, which is planned to be sold or deactivated by 2023.
“We think it’s important that the state look to the Public Energy Authority, look to acquiring an equity position to stay more involved with that plant going forward so that that plant can continue to operate,” Hamilton said today on MetroNews’ “Talkline.”
Chris Hamilton, President of the @WV_coal1, is asking the West Virginia Public Energy Authority to take over part ownership of the Pleasants Power Plant. Chris discusses why to @HoppyKercheval. WATCH: https://t.co/yCFQ3nEhk6 pic.twitter.com/mp0CoKKB5f
— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) May 31, 2022
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.
The state has already done much to ease the plant’s economic pressures.
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 protecting the jobs of 160 power plant employees. Officials also noted that the plant has been supplied by West Virginia coal.
Now Hamilton is asking for support from the Public Energy Authority, which Justice reactivated at his urging last year.
The Public Energy Authority was created in the 1980s under the administration of Gov. Arch Moore to build coal-fired power plants, but that effort eventually fizzled. The authority was reconstituted during the Manchin administration but then met irregularly.
The agency has broad ability to acquire power generation facilities or provide financial support for power production.
The authority’s broad powers would allow it to acquire or spin off any electric power project or natural gas transmission project. The authority could also finance electric or natural gas transmission projects by making secured loans. Or it could issue bonds to finance costs of power projects. The board also has eminent domain authority for such projects.
In August, when the return of the Public Energy Authority first arose, House Speaker Roger Hanshaw said the government agency should stop short of its full power of acquiring and running energy transmission projects.
“I think the answer is no — full stop no — on that,” Hanshaw, R-Clay, said then.
“We’ve seen in other states what happens when the government gets involved in producing energy. I think we want the private sector doing that. I think we want private sector energy providers doing what they do well.”
Hamilton today said he just wants to remind the Public Energy Authority of what it can do.
“They noted their authority in statute does provide for that consideration,” he said, “so again it was just something we wanted the Public Energy to look at and consider going forward.”