FirstEnergy delays closure of coal-fired Pleasants Power Station

MORGANTOWN — FirstEnergy’s Pleasants Power Station won’t close as soon as planned.

The coal-fired plant was slated to close in January 2019. But FirstEnergy spokeswoman Jennifer Young said its Allegheny Energy Supply (AES) subsidiary notified PJM Interconnection, the regional transmission organization, that it will extend the notice of the deactivation of the Pleasants Power Station to June 1, 2022.

The new deactivation date, Young said, allows the plant to remain in operation until transfer of ownership from AES to sister company FirstEnergy Solutions (FES) is complete, as part of FirstEnergy’s bankruptcy settlement agreement with FES and the FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company (FENOC).

Keeping Pleasants working through May 2022 allows the plant to fulfill current capacity obligations and provides additional time for evaluation of the long-term plan for the station prior to deactivation, she said.

Gov. Jim Justice celebrated the announcement in a press release.

“I have worked hard with President Trump, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, First Energy CEO Chuck Jones and many legislators and county commissioners to make sure this plant stays open,” he said.

The announcement, he said, “will provide a cushion for FirstEnergy Solutions to stabilize the operation. I am hopeful that over the next three and a half years a permanent fix for the long-term operation of the facility will be reached so that it remains a vital part of America’s power grid. I am encouraged that the men and women who work at this plant will be there producing power for our country for decades to come.”

The bankruptcy of FES and FENOC and the Pleasants transfer are part of FirstEnergy’s announced strategy of moving completely out of the competitive, deregulated energy market and fully into the regulated market where revenues are more predictable and secure.

Allegheny’s sisters Mon Power and Potomac Edison previously tried and failed to buy Pleasants as part of that same strategy.

In late February, FirstEnergy announced its plan to sell or close the plant.

As part of the bankruptcy settlement agreement, FirstEnergy announced in April that the 1,300 megawatt Pleasants plant in Willow Island, Pleasants County, would be transferred from AES, which is not involved in the proceedings, to the creditors of FES and FENOC.

The agreement was approved by the bankruptcy court in late September, Young said. The settlement agreement was intended to fully release FirstEnergy and related parties from all claims.

Pleasants employs about 190 people, according to a FirstEnergy fact sheet. It has two 650 megawatt units that went online in 1979 and 1980. It uses more than 3.4 million tons of coal per year and pays $5 million annually in property taxes.

AES will continue to operate the plant until the transfer is complete, Young said. She did not have an expected date when the transfer will occur.

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