Appalachian Power president says closing Mitchell plant would save ratepayers $27 million annually

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Appalachian Power Company President and COO Chris Beam testified during a hearing before the state Public Service Commission Tuesday that it would save ratepayers $27 million a year if the company closes the Mitchell Power Plant in Marshall County.

Chris Beam

Appalachian Power is before the PSC seeking approval to install environmentally mandated equipment on its coal-fired power plants in West Virginia including Mitchell, Mountaineer in Mason County and John Amos in Putnam County.

The company proposes spending between $286 million and $317 million to modify the plants. It would initially seek to recover approximately $23 million through a surcharge that would raise customers’ bills approximately 1.5%

Appalachian Power is proposing several options including making the pollution control modifications to all three plants or closing Mitchell by 2028 and making the modifications to John Amos and Mountaineer.

Most of the public comments at a hearing last week focused on the Mitchell plant. Congressman David McKinley was among those to testify in favor of keeping the plant open until 2040.

Beam would not favor one plan over another Tuesday, the first day of what could be a four-day evidentiary hearing before the PSC. He said he was not making a recommendation of which option would be more prudent. Beam said it’s entirely up to the PSC to decide which option.

“Our evaluation looks at it from the customer’s perspective and that’s what we’ve presented in this filing, what is the view from the customer’s perspective,” Beam said.

He said taking Mitchell offline in seven years would save $27 million a year.

Beam said the company likes to take at least five years to transition to closing of a plant. He said the company would participate in a ‘just transition’ for the community.

“The longer the time you have the better the plan can be and the more effective it can be in the up front of the development and in the implementation,” he said.

The West Virginia Coal Association is against closing the Mitchell plant. Its attorney Brann Altmeyer asked Beam if Appalachian Power had a plan to replace the 661 jobs that would be lost with the closure of the Mitchell Plant.

“We do not,” Beam said.

Beam said Appalachian Power has to have a plan for environmental improvements submitted to the West Virginia DEP by October. He said the company would not operate its plants unless they are in compliance.

“If you don’t perform these environmental compliance projects you would not be able to run the plant and be in compliance and we will not run the plant out of compliance. So it would basically take them out of service,” Beam said.

Beam also testified Tuesday carbon capture technology is not economically feasible at any of the plants.

Testimony is expected to continue Wednesday.

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