Loss of AEP power plant will have ripple effect

An editorial from the Parkersburg News and Sentinel
PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — American Electric Power’s Muskingum River Plant is winding down, and as it does, the consequences of the war on coal and affordable electricity are more visible than the folks in Washington, D.C., might want to acknowledge. For more than 60 years, the coal-fired power plant was a vital part of both our local economy and the power grid.

Though there is still hope another industry might move in to take advantage of the infrastructure in place at the facility, the truth is there are empty shells up and down the Ohio River that have created a bit of a glut in the market – just ask the folks in Hannibal, Ohio, who are holding out hope that a new company will one day manufacture steel at the former Ormet Corp. aluminum mill.

“We’d like to see if they can repurpose the area for some economic benefit to replace what was left,” said Beverly Mayor Rex Kenyon. “Hopefully there is some warehousing or manufacturing that can go in up there.”

In the meantime, the shut-down of another coal-fired power plant will mean school districts in the area that receive utility tax funds could lose anywhere between $800,000 and more than $1 million annually. The last of what, at one time, had been 80 full-time workers will be gone by June 19. The community involvement by AEP officials who had been part of local boards of directors, social and service organizations, or even been athletic coaches for local kids, will change forever.

And, while it may be easy for those in our nation’s capital to ignore that kind of damage to our communities, it will be harder for them to ignore the dent in generating capacity. “We run the risk of having more brown outs and less reliable electricity,” Kenyon said.

But right here at home, we are losing something our valley can ill afford to see fade.

“It is a family here,” said Jim Pool, one of those supervising shifts of workers who are getting the plant ready to close. “We all try to take care of everything together.”

It would be nice if the folks waging war against so many such facilities across our region understood that – or cared.

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