West Virginia Coal Plant Will Remain Open Until 2022

FirstEnergy on October 18 said its coal-fired Pleasants Power Station in West Virginia will stay open until June 2022, after earlier announcing the plant would close in January of next year.

FirstEnergy spokeswoman Jennifer Young said, “Keeping Pleasants in operation … allows the plant to fulfill current capacity obligations and provides additional time for evaluation of the long-term plan for the station prior to deactivation.”

The plant is operated by Allegheny Energy Supply (AES), a FirstEnergy subsidiary. Pushing back the closing date allows Pleasants Power to remain in operation until the transfer of the facility from AES to FirstEnergy Solutions (FES) is complete. The transfer is part of FirstEnergy’s bankruptcy settlement agreement with FES and the FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company (FENOC), Young said.

FirstEnergy in February of this year said it would close the 1.3-GW Pleasants Power Station by January 1, 2019. The company has been suffering steep losses in competitive markets. It announced a plan in November 2016 to exit competitive generation and become a fully regulated company.

FES in late August notified PJM Interconnection, the regional transmission organization (RTO), of its plans to deactivate four additional fossil-fuel generating plants in 2021 and 2022. The company in an August 29 news release said it “is closing the plants due to a market environment that fails to adequately compensate generators for the resiliency and fuel-security attributes that the plants provide.”

The four additional power plants to be deactivated are:

  • Eastlake 6, Eastlake, Ohio (24 MW, coal), June 1, 2021.
  • Bruce Mansfield Units 1–3, Shippingport, Pennsylvania (2,490 MW, coal), June 1, 2021.
  • H. Sammis Diesel, Stratton, Ohio (13 MW, diesel oil), June 1, 2021.
  • H. Sammis Units 5–7, Stratton, Ohio (1,490 MW, coal), June 1, 2022.

FirstEnergy in April 2018 said it had an agreement in principle to transfer ownership of Pleasants Power Station, which began operating in 1979, to creditors in the bankruptcy of FES and its subsidiaries, and FENOC. The agreement was approved by the bankruptcy court in late September. The settlement agreement was intended to fully release FirstEnergy and related parties from all claims, Young said.

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice on Thursday said, “While the plant will remain operational until June 2022, today’s announcement will provide a cushion for First Energy Solutions to stabilize the operation. I am hopeful that over the next three and a half years a permanent fix for the long-term operation of the facility will be reached so that it remains a vital part of America’s power grid.” Justice in a statement said, “I have worked hard with President Trump, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, FirstEnergy CEO Chuck Jones and many legislators and county commissioners to make sure this plant stays open.”

The plant employs 160 workers. “I am encouraged that the men and women who work at this plant will be there producing power for our country for decades to come,” Justice added.

FirstEnergy for more than a year tried to find a buyer for the Pleasants Power Station before the February announcement that it would close the facility.

Darrell Proctor is a POWER associate editor (@DarrellProctor1, @POWERmagazine).