Energy, Healthcare, State Government

Justice voices support for keeping Pleasants Power Station open as PSC hearing approaches

MORGANTOWN — Gov. Jim Justice favors keeping Pleasants Power Station up and running, he said during his Wednesday administration briefing.

“It would be a crying shame to let the plant die,” he said in response to a question about the Public Service Commission’s planned hearing on the issue. It employs about 158 people, and supports 400 mine jobs that supply the plant, he said. “That’s huge for Pleasants County.”

At the April 21 evidentiary hearing, the PSC will consider Mon Power’s and Potomac Edison’s interim solution and proposed surcharge regarding their potential acquisition of the Pleasants Power Station.

The interim solution involves Mon Power and current owner Energy Transition & Environmental Management (ETEM) entering into an arrangement for up to 12 months to keep Pleasants open while Mon Power considers and negotiates the purchase and conducts the regulatory proceedings.

ETEM plans to demolish the plant and remediate the site but Energy Harbor, which sold the plant to ETEM and is leasing it back, will keep it open through May 31.

Mon Power would need to execute a letter of intent regarding the arrangement, starting June 1, that would need a PSC OK.

Mon Power would also establish a temporary surcharge to customers to cover the costs — mostly labor — of keeping the plant open. The total cost would be $36 million per year and would add $2.67 per month to a residential bill, $8.44 per month to a commercial bill.

Another factor in the Pleasants purchase would be the possible closure of Fort Martin just outside Morgantown, as Mon Power would not need three coal-fired plants (it also owns the Harrison plant).

Commenting on the hearing, Justice said, “Let the PSC to do its job.”

Other briefing news

Commerce Secretary James Bailey announced that the Division of Forestry is launching a daily fire report page on its website. Residents will be able to view areas where wildfires are occurring or have occurred since the start of 2023.

Bailey reminded listeners that fire season burning restrictions remain in place until May 31, the close of season. Outdoor burning is confined to the hours of 5 p.m. to 7 a.m.

COVID-19 Czar Clay Marsh presented a pre-recorded COVID update. He noted that the virus’ impact has plateaued, with reduced numbers of deaths and hospitalizations. But the nation is still averaging 225 deaths per week.

A new variant is gaining pre-eminence in India, he said: XBB.1.16, an offshoot of XBB.1.5 that was dominant here and across the world for several months. XBB.1.16 is here but not spreading as widely as it has in India.

On a positive note, Marsh touted the Biden administration’s Project NextGen, a continuation of the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed.

NextGen, Marsh said, will seek to make developments in three areas: new monoclonal antibodies that will be more resilient to changes in the virus; a nasal vaccine to stimulate immunity through the nose and airways; and a new super vaccine for newer and future COVID variants.

While 92% of the population has some level of immunity through vaccination or prior infection or both, he said, COVID still affects the older population and residents over 50 and especially over 65 should still consider getting vaccinated or updated.

TWEET David Beard @dbeardtdp