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Groups trying to block sale of Pleasants Power plant to Mon Power, Potomac Edison

Staff reports

The State Journal

CHARLESTON, W.Va. WV Solar United Neighborhoods (WV SUN) and West Virginia Citizen Action Group (WVCAG) joined forces March 15 to try to block Monongahela Power Co. and Potomac Edison from acquiring a power plant their parent company, Ohio-based First Energy, no longer wants.

The groups, working as West Virginians for Energy Freedom, filed a motion to intervene with the West Virginia Public Service Commission.

Under FirstEnergy’s proposal, Mon Power would buy the aging Pleasants power plant from another FirstEnergy subsidiary. The move would shift the financial burden of the plant from FirstEnergy shareholders to Mon Power and Potomac Edison’s customers. These customers would be forced to cover all of the plant’s costs, assume the plant’s financial risks, and pay FirstEnergy a guaranteed profit, the groups said.

They claim FirstEnergy’s proposal comes after a lengthy effort to lay the foundation for this financial bailout: In late 2015, FirstEnergy filed a plan with the PSC that recommended the purchase of a coal plant to meet demand. WV SUN and WVCAG, represented by Earthjustice, challenged that plan’s assumptions, claiming it was a thinly disguised attempt to pave the way for purchasing the Pleasants plant. Later, when Mon Power sought proposals to meet the power needs it identified, WV SUN and WVCAG, together with the Consumer Advocate Division, filed a letter with the PSC explaining how the flawed process was heavily skewed to favor the Pleasants plant.

“If this plant was such a good bet, then FirstEnergy would be putting its own money on the line, instead of asking the government to force ratepayers to gamble on it being a good deal,” said Emmett Pepper, director of WVCAG’s Energy Efficient West Virginia project. “Pleasants is currently part of a deregulated free market, but FirstEnergy wants to use its monopoly status in West Virginia to force its Mon Power and Potomac Edison customers to pay for (it).”

WV SUN and WVCAG are leading the recently formed coalition fighting the bailout, West Virginians For Energy Freedom. The coalition is comprised of economic and ratepayer advocacy groups, faith-based organizations, businesses, and elected officials It will hold a series of community meetings to discuss the bailout — beginning March 21 in Clarksburg and continuing March 28 in Morgantown.

“We should not be responsible for bailing out a corporation like FirstEnergy,” said Karan Ireland of WV SUN. “Compare the company’s executive salaries and the net worth of its shareholders with the income of the average West Virginian and tell me again how this deal make sense? It doesn’t make sense for consumers, it doesn’t make sense for small businesses, and it doesn’t make sense for our state.”

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