Justice reactivates Public Energy Authority, appoints new members

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice has reactivated the West Virginia Public Energy Authority.

Governor Jim Justice

Justice’s office made the announcement Saturday after Justice spoke at the West Virginia Coal Association’s 2021 conference.

“One thing we want to try to ensure is that West Virginia will continue to be an energy powerhouse for the entire world,” Justice said in the Saturday news release. “By reactivating the WVPEA, the State will maintain real time, firsthand knowledge of the status of each power plant, their life cycle, and whether there are concerns of household power supplies being disrupted.”

The authority hasn’t been active for about 10 years. It was created by the legislature and state code gives it the authority, among other powers, issuing ponds to build coal or natural gas-powered plants.

Justice’s Saturday announcement follows the praise he gave to the Public Service Commission Friday for its recent decision concerning the futures of three coal-fired power plants in West Virginia. The PSC order gave Appalachian Power the approval to make improvements at the John Amos, Mountaineer and Mitchell power plants enabling to remain operational until 2040.

“I commend the PSC on this decision. I think it’s the right decision,” Justice, a coal operator, said.

Chris Hamilton

What ultimately happens with those plants will depend on what regulators in Kentucky and Virginia decide to do because the plants also serve customers in those states.

“The West Virginia order provides one more of the three state orders necessary to determine our path forward,” AEP spokesman Phil Moye told MetroNews.

Justice said West Virginia must stay in support of coal and natural gas.

“We cannot afford to risk our baseload generation capabilities and capacities,” he said Friday.

According to the governor’s office, the Public Energy Authority will “help coordinate the output of merchant plants with capacity needs of regulated plants. Additionally, the Authority will assist in developing the next generation of coal plants and long-term energy policies that use all of West Virginia’s resources.”

Justice appointed five new members to the authority including West Virginia Coal Association President Chris Hamilton and Charlie Burd, the executive director of the Gas and Oil Association of West Virginia.

Earlier this week Justice appointed retired West Virginia Coal Association President Bill Raney to an open seat on the Public Service Commission.

“He loves our state beyond good sense, just like I do,” Justice said. “He’s so qualified and so versed it’s unbelievable.”

Bill Raney

Justice said Friday the state needs to support renewable energy but it’s not yet ready to assume a major role.

“Hopefully we’ll be ready some day but right now we’re not ready,” Justice said. “Anybody that feels like we can immediately move to renewals saying we don’t need coal, we don’t need oil, we don’t need gas, that’s a frivolous silly thought.”

He went on to say it is “absolutely wrong” to base an energy policy on renewables. He called it “an experiment” that will cause a lot of “great jobs” to be lost.

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