Photo courtesy of Appalachian Power Appalachian Power and Wheeling Power are asking the West Virginia Public Service Commission to approve a new, higher surcharge for customers to put power plants like the Marshall County Mitchell plant into compliance with federal regulations.

CHARLESTON – Representatives from American Electric Power, the parent company of Appalachian Power and Kentucky Power, told members of the West Virginia Public Service Commission why they needed a quick ruling on whether taxpayers in the State had to foot the bill for environmental improvements at three factories.

The PSC held an evidentiary hearing Friday at its Charleston offices regarding Appalachian Power and Wheeling Power’s new supplement request to maintain the Mitchell Power Plant in Marshall County, John Amos Power Plant in County of Putnam and the Mountaineer Power Plant in Mason County in operation since 2028.

The companies are asking for a 3.3% increase for West Virginia taxpayers – up from 1.62% approved by the PSC in August – to help subsidize environmental improvements at the three factories.

Improvements include changing the way factories dispose of coal ash (CCR) and the way wastewater is discharged from factories (ELG).

Appalachian Power / Wheeling Power’s initial capital cost was $ 317 million for the projects, with West Virginia taxpayers contributing $ 23.5 million. However, Kentucky regulators have rejected a similar plan proposed by Kentucky Power – the Mitchell Power Plant co-owners – for the ELG and CCR improvements.

Regulators in Virginia approved the CCR improvements for the Amos and Mountaineer plants, but rejected the proposed plan and surcharge for the ELG improvements. Refusals from regulators in Kentucky and Virginia increased the cost of the projects from $ 317 million to $ 448 million.

Appalachian Power and Wheeling Power filed a petition on September 8 with the PSC to reopen the case approved by the commissioners in August. The companies are asking the PSC for a ruling that it wants companies to continue ELG projects at all three or specific factories, and recognition that West Virginia taxpayers will have to bear all the costs of the improvements.

If the PSC approves, West Virginia taxpayers could have to pay an annual surtax of $ 48 million. Gary Spitznogle, AEP’s vice president of environmental services, said businesses need a decision no later than Wednesday, October 13, when the State Department of Environmental Protection needs a decision. business decision on whether to start the retirement process for one or more plants by 2028.

“Suppose the commission issues an order by October 13 that the commission wants AEP to go ahead with ELG and CCR on the three plants and West Virginia taxpayers bear all the costs. What must the AEP do to comply? Asked Charlotte Lane, president of the PSC.

“We have to execute the plans that we have already filed,” Spitznogle said. “We would simply continue our construction project of these renovations …

Earlier Friday morning, the PSC held a public comment hearing on the updated surcharge request. Out of 13 speakers, only three spoke in favor of the proposal. Workers’ representatives spoke out in favor of protecting factories, especially the jobs they provide.

“Our members work approximately 1 million hours in these factories each year,” said George Capel, representing the West Virginia State Building and Construction Trades Council. “I come to you this morning to respectfully ask you to consider what it might look like in terms of lost tax revenue and lost business if these workers were displaced and forced to relocate due to the closure of these factories. “

“Our members extract millions of tonnes of coal from West Virginia that are delivered to these factories each year,” said Chad Francis, representing the United Mine Workers of America. “We support keeping our current coal-fired power plants running and operating as clean and as efficiently as possible, so families in West Virginia can in turn have the chance to live the American Dream.”

The surcharge request has been challenged by environmental groups and consumer organizations, arguing that West Virginia should not bear the full burden of the improvement costs. According to the National Consumer Law Center, the monthly cost for a residential customer of Appalachian Power / Wheeling Power has increased 60% since 2011.

“Taxpayers should only pay the fair costs of the public service actually provided to these taxpayers,” said Margot Saunders, a lawyer at the National Consumer Law Center. “Yet in this case, the companies are asking West Virginia taxpayers to pay the cost of the service provided to taxpayers in other states, even after regulators in those states determined it was wrong. political for that to happen. “

“Many of our members in the state are already struggling to make ends meet,” said Gaylene Miller, state director for AARP in West Virginia. “Many are on low incomes, while others live on limited or fixed incomes. They just don’t have the capacity to absorb additional costs without having to make difficult trade-offs when it comes to spending on food, medicine, or transportation.

The proposal had the backing of local lawmakers, including Del. Charlie Reynolds, R-Marshall, and US Representative David McKinley, RW.Va.

“It would be tough if utility rates went up, but I’m going to support it,” Reynolds said. “I believe that with nothing in place to provide us with the energy that these plants provide, it’s just an attack on our energy grid. So, I am against the closure of these factories.

“The WVPSC is charged with balancing the interests of West Virginia with the general interest of West Virginia’s economy and the interests of the public service,” McKinley wrote in a letter to the PSC Friday. “Making the investments necessary to keep plants in service until 2040 far outweighs the destruction of our state’s economy and workforce that would come with the early retirement of plants. “

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