We were delighted to learn on Wednesday that the West Virginia Public Service Commission has taken what we believe to be the best decision for our region and state in approving a plan from Appalachian Power to keep the Mitchell Power Plant open and operational until. in 2040.
Appalachian Power had asked for a 1.5% rate hike to help the company meet federal environmental standards. The money raised from the increase will fund upgrades to the Mitchell plant, as well as the Amos plant in Winfield and the Mountaineer plant in Letart, West Virginia.
The PSC-approved plan will cost taxpayers $ 317 million and keep the three factories open until 2040.
The Mitchell Power Plant supports 660 jobs and families in Marshall County, with annual employee compensation of $ 65 million. It generates more than 5 million megawatt hours of electricity and has a direct economic impact of $ 418 million on Marshall County, according to a 2021 report from the University of West Virginia.
Mitchell’s power generation capabilities are what PSC President Charlotte Lane cited in the ruling.
“The Commission is very concerned about a likely shortage of electricity caused by the premature closure of the Mitchell plant,” he added. Lane said. âWe recognize that in the future, for new power supply resources, we may have to rely more on intermittent resources such as wind and solar. It is premature, however, to begin to abandon our traditional basic power supply resources, which can be upgraded to meet environmental demands. “
Those who oppose the plan call the decision “Missed opportunity” for West Virginia to “Watch for an economic transition for the communities around the Mitchell plant as coal continues its long decline in our state.”
“As a state we have to start planning for this and, again, we missed this opportunity”, said Emmett Pepper with Energy Efficient West Virginia.
Pepper is right about one point: West Virginia needs to plan for a future that isn’t so much dependent on coal. But shutting down the Mitchell factory earlier and cutting the jobs it provides would have been foolish. We are not yet at a stage where coal and natural gas – which supply nearly two-thirds of our nation’s electricity needs, according to the US Energy Information Administration – can be taken out of the energy equation, as many environmental groups would have you believe that. .
What we urge, especially to the people of Marshall County, an area that extracts heavy coal and natural gas, is: Use this lifeline from the PSC to start the process of reinventing your economy when coal is no longer a feasible option. Make no mistake, that time is approaching, but it is not today. To stand back and wait for the future of the Mitchell factory to be on the line again to reinvent the economy would be disastrous.