MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Turnout was large at the Monongalia County Justice Center in Morgantown Tuesday night for a public hearing on the proposed acquisition of the Pleasants Power Station.
The Public Service Commission heard public comment from more than 30 people on the transfer of the Pleasants Power Station in Willow Island. Local officials and citizens alike spoke for and against the transfer with those against it overwhelmingly presiding over the packed courtroom where the hearing was held.
If the transfer proceeds, it would prompt FirstEnergy to transfer ownership of the plant to it’s West Virginia affiliates Mon Power and Potomac Edison. The disputed transfer led to a near 1,000 vote petition. Morgantown City Council Member Barry Wendell was among those who spoke against the purchase stating that citizens would end up paying for the transfer through rate hikes.
“The people in West Virginia would have to make sure that the plant makes a profit,” Wendell stated. “But right now [FirstEnergy] shareholders have to make sure it makes a profit, they’re saying it can’t so they want to transfer it to a West Virginia subsidiary, where then the rate payers would have to make sure they make a profit and that’s, why are we responsible for that?”
Others that spoke against the transfer voiced concerns about the environmental effects the plant could have regarding it’s use of coal, the lack of attempts at energy diversification and efficiency, and even concerns with how it could affect homeowners. Sheila Coleman Castells, Executive Director of the West Virginia Home Builders Foundation, says the potential rate increases play a part in the sale.
“[Home buyers] can’t put money toward the energy efficient conveniences that we must build in a house if indeed it’s going to bring up their mortgage too much and then they still have to pay high bills,” Castells said.
Despite the overwhelmingly large crowd speaking against the transfer, there were several who spoke for the transfer to go through with mentions of potential job growth, job maintenance with work not leaving the state, and a statement of no rate hikes. Nick Fantasia, President of the Marion Regional Development Corporation, spoke for the transfer — stating that job growth benefits involve a strong energy structure.
“There are thousands of jobs everyday that are a part of this project, but there are also hundreds of thousands of jobs,” he said.
Others speaking for the transfer said school programs that were funded with the help of the Pleasants Power Plant could continue to receive funding, praised the plant for being up to code standards, and argued against the risk of the potential for job loss.
“It was not only the hundred or some jobs that was there, but it was the trickle down affect. You know your coal truck drivers, your coal miners, your machine shops, your vendors, and all that. It’s a huge impact for an area,” State Senator Randy Smith (R-Tucker, 14) said.
Over 100 jobs were lost after the closing of the Albright Power Plant back in 2012 due to costs of adjusting the plant from a coal powered plant to an alternative energy source.
Over 950 people signed the petition against the transfer of this plant.
Morgantown City Council will address the issue at next week’s city council meeting.