MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The Public Service Commission will hear comments from the public at a Tuesday hearing on the proposed acquisition of the Pleasants Power Station by Mon Power and Potomac Edison.
Industry and company insiders say the proposed $195 million acquisition would help the two West Virginia subsidiaries of FirstEnergy Corp. meet the growing demand for power onset by the natural gas industry’s regional growth while simultaneously lowering electricity rates for residential customers and saving about 200 jobs at the Willow Island coal-fired power plant.
“If we can keep coal miners mining coal and the suppliers, it’s probably about a three to one or probably in that area a five to one,” West Virginia Coal Association President Bill Raney said Monday on WAJR’s Morgantown AM. “For every direct coal mining job there is, there’s five people working in the economy somewhere.”
Raney said protecting those jobs, particularly in West Virginia, is crucial to the state’s economic rebound. Like FirstEnergy, he considers the pending acquisition a “win-win-win.”
“We got to retain that good dependable base-load generation, and the best way to do that is to put them in a regulated environment that allows them to have a return on their investment,” he said.
Critics of the move have said FirstEnergy is overestimating the economic impact the purchase will have on the region. The worst impact, they argued Monday, could be an overestimation of the savings for residential customers because an overestimation in the projected growth of energy consumption.
“That’s not happening anywhere in the country, and we don’t think it can happen in West Virginia,” Jim Kotcon of the Sierra Club said on Morgantown AM.
Kotcon said Sierra Club has retained the services of a group that is projecting the exact opposite, in fact.
“They’ve shown that the estimate of electricity demand, or the growth in electricity demand, is dramatically inflated and based on some very dubious assumptions,” he said.
Kotcon said the dispute also lies in how much growth will actually occur in the natural gas industry, which is one of the prime reasons FirstEnergy’s West Virginia affiliates filed the plan for acquisition.
“We expect the growth will not be as fast as FirstEnergy expects.”
Pleasants Power Station is in West Virginia, but sells it’s energy into Ohio-based markets. Kotcon said that makes this an odd purchase.
“If FirstEnergy’s Ohio affiliate is looking to sell their coal-fired power plants, like the Pleasants Plant, why would we want to pick it up?” Kotcon said.
The meeting in Morgantown will be the third held by the Public Service Commission. It’s at 6 p.m. at the Monongalia County Judicial Center.