CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A three-day evidentiary hearing before the state Public Service Commission gets underway Wednesday into the proposed $1.2 billion sale of the Harrison Power Station to Monongahela Power.
Harrison is currently co-owned — 80 percent by another FirstEnergy subsidiary, Allegheny Energy Supply, with Mon Power owning the other 20 percent. Under the proposed deal, Mon Power wants to buy the coal-fired power plant outright.
Last year FirstEnergy shut down three coal-powered plants in the region, leaving Mon Power and Potomac Edison, in the eastern panhandle, without enough electricity to supply their customers. FirstEnergy has been purchasing power on the open market to compensate.
Todd Myers, a spokesperson with FirstEnergy, said buying the Harrison Power Station is the answer to Mon Power’s problem.
“We will not only have enough electricity available for all of our customers, but will also have a surplus of electricity that we can sell on the open market,” Myers said.
The company said customers may save money based on the acquisition, but State Consumer Advocate Byron Harris disagreed. He said the cost of buying the plant versus purchasing open-mark electricity will cost customers more in the long run. That’s why he’ll be pushing for the PSC to deny the purchase.
“Do an open bidding process and let everyone bid to supply power to Mon Power’s customers and basically buy the best price you can,” Harris said.
He claimed the company is purchasing the plant at an inflated price in order to make up for a loss FirstEnergy absorbed when it purchased Allegheny Energy, the former parent company of Mon Power and Potomac Edison.
“We knew at the time they were paying more for Allegheny than the value of Allegheny,” Harris said. “They promised us they would not seek to recover any of that. The price of which they want to transfer the Harrison plant recovers almost $600 million of that acquisition premium. They’re going back on their promise.”
FirstEnergy denied that claim and contends it will lay out its case and all the numbers before the PSC.
Meanwhile, AARP West Virginia has opposed the sale, claiming rate payers could end up with higher power bills.
Several other groups are protesting the sale, including the Sierra Club, which advocates for more energy efficiency.
The PSC has told all sides in the case it will take the full three days for the hearing. That means starting on time, taking short lunch breaks and possibly working late into the day to get all evidence introduced into the record.