At its monthly meeting Wednesday, the West Virginia Public Energy Authority got an update on work under a new law poised to thrust it into a key role in the possible shutdown of a coal-fired plant slated to shutter soon.
But it wasn’t much of an update, with Public Energy Authority Chairman and Department of Commerce Secretary James Bailey reporting the authority didn’t meet its goal of drafting language for a potential rule for Senate Bill 609 before the meeting.
Signed into law by Gov. Jim Justice last month, SB 609 requires the authority to sign off on decommissioning or deconstructing any existing utility or non-utility plant fueled by coal, oil or natural gas. Opponents have said the measure meddles with the free market by inserting unelected officials into the plant closure process.
Bailey said the board hadn’t yet drafted language for a potential rule for SB 609 primarily due to “complexity” involved. Under SB 609, the authority will have to propose rules for legislative approval and develop emergency rules to carry out the law.
Under SB 609, the authority may approve the decommissioning or deconstruction of a fossil fuel-fired plant upon submission of a petition that includes an analysis by an authority-approved third party that evaluates the social, environmental and economic impact at a local and statewide level of such decommissioning and deconstruction.
“How will it affect the state’s economy and how will it affect the individual and localized community there surrounding the plant?” said Graham Platz, Department of Commerce deputy general counsel, guiding the authority through the new law.
Platz said he looked forward to providing a “more substantive update” for the board at its meeting next month.
SB 609 made the owner of the coal-fired Pleasants Power Station slated for impending closure reevaluate a plan to demolish the plant and remediate the site, Mon Power and Potomac Edison have told the state Public Service Commission. The utilities have asked the PSC for a rate increase of at least $3 million per month for 12 months starting June 1 to maintain the plant while they decide whether to acquire it.
The Houston-based plant owner, Energy Transition and Environmental Management (ETEM), issued a request for proposals soliciting other plans.
Those plans include proposals for the sale of Pleasants in its entirety before demolition and remediation and a lease, toll or sale and “put-back” of Pleasants so the plant could operate through a transition period of likely up to five years, after which ETEM would demolish and remediate the property, according to an ETEM request for proposals. The deadline for proposals is Monday at 5 p.m.
Pleasants LLC, a subsidiary of Energy Harbor Generation LLC, an independent power producer, has leased and operated the plant since ETEM acquired it from Pleasants LLC in December, according to ETEM’s request for proposals.
Energy Harbor has stated employment at Pleasants will end by July 15 and that Energy Harbor will no longer have any leasehold or other Pleasants ownership interest starting the next day, Mon Power and Potomac Edison have told the Public Service Commission.
The Public Energy Authority has done little but hear presentations from representatives of energy industries and users in the meetings it has held since February 2022, six months after Justice rebooted the authority with a stated goal of developing a “next generation” of coal plants.
Mike Tony covers energy and the environment. He can be reached at 304-348-1236 or mtony@hdmediallc