Pamela S. Ellis: Sale of power plant would hurt WV’s competitiveness
The Pleasants Campaign commissioned by the West Virginia Sierra Club raised public awareness of West Virginia ratepayer exposure to increased monthly charges for electricity due to the proposed purchase of the Pleasants Power Station, a coal-fired power plant by FirstEnergy subsidiaries, Mon Power and Potomac Edison.
Additionally, the environmental and health impacts of the Pleasants Power Plant located on Willow Island, were made available to the public through community speaking engagements, and subsequent Public Service Commission and newspaper letter writing, petition signatures, and social media campaigns.
West Virginia customers of First- Energy voiced their opposition to the proposed transfer transaction at standing-room-only public hearings in Parkersburg, Martinsburg and Morgantown held by the Public Service Commission.
Over a time period from Jan. 15, 2017, through Sept. 30, 2017, the goal was to reach the 542,842 customers of Mon Power and Potomac Edison with a message of mobilization. More than 2,000 protest comments, and only 50 support comments were registered with the PSC over this period.
FirstEnergy Corp.’s failure to diversify its customer energy delivery portfolio with demand response technology and energy efficiency programs — as currently done in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Ohio — became a demonstrable, untenable track to unload an uncompetitive energy resource, the Pleasants Power Plant, to its West Virginia-regulated industry customer base, where profit losses could be easily shifted to consumers instead of shareholder investors.
To ensure that the Public Service Commission of West Virginia regarded its duty to protect customers from energy rate hikes, the Pleasants Campaign reminded the Commissioners of the stated public mission and vision statement of the Public Service Commission mandate to provide:
An increase in business investment, job creation/retention and the state’s overall competitiveness.
An improvement in the standard of living and quality of life for the people of West Virginia.
That consumers receive the best value in utility service from financially viable and technically competent companies.
That utilities receive an opportunity to earn a fair return on their investment in regulated services.
Based on a review of the above criteria, the proposed FirstEnergy purchase of the Pleasants Power Station does not meet these standards.
It is estimated that a FirstEnergy investment of $195 million would provide approximately 4,000 jobs in energy efficiency and renewable energy career employment. Analyst Cathy Kunkel reported, “The average wage for these energy efficiency jobs is nearly $5,000 above the national median income.” The number of median income jobs for West Virginia citizens with an investment purchase of a 37-year-old coal-fired Pleasants Power Plant is not adequately comparable.
This purchase would decrease, rather than increase, West Virginia’s competitiveness with states with Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Portfolio Resource Standards, such as Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Ohio, which require investments in energy saving programs from FirstEnergy. Customers in these states benefit from customer demand response technologies, energy saving rebates, discounts and appliance turn-in programs, as opposed to West Virginia customers.
The Public Service Commission would benefit West Virginia citizens by requiring similar standards from electric utility companies.
Additionally, there is no improvement in the standard of living and quality of life for the people of West Virginia with the proposed purchase of the Pleasants Power Station due to the economic loss from the lack of investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy sources. Furthermore, the Pleasants Power Station is responsible for negative health outcomes for West Virginia citizens and adverse impacts on state environmental resources.
The Pleasants Power Plant is cited for 40 deaths, 65 heart attacks, 630 asthma attacks, 30 hospital admissions and 32 asthma ER Visits in 2014 as evidenced by the Clean Air Task Force Study.