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Grant Town Power Plant in danger of shutting down

(WDTV)
Published: Jul. 3, 2018 at 5:33 PM EDT
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Several employees of the Grant Town Power Plant in Marion County have worked there since it opened in 1993.

Now, the 45 employees at the plant might be in danger of losing their jobs. That's excluding the dozens more who work for the plant in other capacities like truck drivers.

The plant's owner, American Bituminous, filed with the state Public Service Commission (PSC) to increase its electric energy purchase agreement (EEPA) the plant pays to Mon Power. That request was denied in May. Instead, the PSC kept rates the same, rather than decrease them like originally planned.

Consumer rates were not affected.

The plant's manager of support services, Herb Thompson, said decreasing the plant's agreement would have meant a loss of roughly $350,000 a month.

The wish to increase the EEPA was to gain that much money in additional revenue to give the plant a better chance at survival.

Appalachian Mountain Advocates filed an appeal with the West Virginia Supreme Court asking to reconsider the PSC's decision not to decrease rates due to legal errors in the order.

The appeal was filed on behalf of environmental groups including The Sierra Club of West Virginia. In a statement, it calls the waste-coal facility "outdated, expensive, and bound for retirement."

"In approving the pass through of the cost of buying power from an outdated, dirty coal-plant, West Virginia's PSC has shown that it favors bailing out corporate polluters over prioritizing West Virginia ratepayers and local economies," Justin Raines, Chair of the West Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club said in the statement. "Across the country coal plants are being shut down at a rapid rate as renewable energy, such as wind and solar, is proving to be cheaper for ratepayers, helping to diversify local economies, and protecting health and the environment. West Virginia should be moving towards these cleaner energy technologies rather than propping up costly fossil-fueled power plants that hurt our communities."

The group said payments to Grant Town exceeded the market price of power by over $56 million" between 2013-16.

Thompson said the plant has received several environmental awards over the years. He said it also has been hailed as one of the top reforming power plants in the country, and one of the safest. He added that the plant annually contributes to roughly 80 percent of the town's economy.

While the appeals process plays out, Thompson said he hopes the situation gets resolved in a way that is consistent with the order issued in May.

"What we hope for is that the commission is able to issue a final and standing order, absent intervention from the other parties, and understanding that they have a right to do so,"Thompson said. "At some point, this has to be sorted out."

He pointed to the plant's persistence to make due with few resources.

"This group is resilient," Thompson said. "We find a way to make stuff work. We find a way to do it as inexpensively as possible, as safely as possible, and as consistently as possible. We've demonstrated that for years."