Guest Essays, Letters to the Editor, Opinion

Guest essay: Pleasants deal bad for Mon County

Also unfair to MonPower consumers

by Jim Kotcon 

The Pleasants power plant is a 43-year-old, 1,300-MW, coal-fired power plant in Pleasants County. MonPower’s parent company, FirstEnergy, tried to dump this unprofitable dinosaur onto MonPower customers in 2017. FirstEnergy argued that transferring Pleasants to MonPower would save money for ratepayers, but when the Public Service Commission required MonPower to guarantee that, or pay the losses themselves, FirstEnergy instead sold it to a company called Energy Harbor. Energy Harbor, unable to turn a profit and recognizing the realities of climate change, plans to close the plant by May 31, 2023. 

Now MonPower is back before the PSC, asking ratepayers to cough up an extra $36 million to keep the plant running one more year. The costs to keep it open beyond that are undetermined but are certain to be substantial, especially since renewables are now cheaper. To add insult to injury, MonPower does not need the extra capacity, so if the deal goes through, MonPower may close the Fort Martin power plant here in Monongalia County. The PSC just imposed millions of dollars in rate increases to upgrade Fort Martin’s water pollution controls.  Those investments would be lost. 

The fault lies in large part with our legislators who are pressuring MonPower to keep Pleasants open, but none of them, not even Mon County’s own delegation, considered the consequences to Fort Martin. 

Another problem is that MonPower is guaranteed a profit, regardless of the economic impact to ratepayers. That is bad policy. A better solution is for the PSC to stick with its original decision to mandate that MonPower shareholders share the risks of bad economic decisions.  

An even better option is for the PSC to mandate that FirstEnergy develop community transition plans to help workers and local communities create new jobs and new economic opportunities. Examples in other parts of the country show this works, and new federal funding is available to help do this. When plants such as Albright and Rivesville closed, MonPower simply walked away, leaving the local community struggling. We need to do better for the communities that have kept Pleasants and Fort Martin working for generations. 

Ask the PSC to oppose the Pleasants transfer and instead require a community transition plan. Submit comments at: or write to: Karen Buckley, Executive Secretary, Public Service Commission, P.O. Box 812, Charleston, WV 25323. Refer to Case No. 22-0793-E-ENEC. 

Jim Kotcon is the chair of the West Virginia Chapter of Sierra Club. He lives in Morgantown.