CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A ruling by Virginia regulators provides new support to citizen groups who argue that Appalachian Power should not be taking on larger ownership in two coal-fired power plants in West Virginia.
Cathy Kunkel, an energy expert with the West Virginia-Citizen Action Group, said Thursday the Virginia State Corporation Commission decision mirrors arguments her group and others are making before the West Virginia Public Service Commission.
"This is a very positive decision that recognizes several of the concerns that we raised in the West Virginia case, including Apco's lack of fuel diversity, the liability of the coal ash pond at Mitchell, and the risk of future climate change regulations," Kunkel said.
Kunkel discussed the issue the day after Virginia's commission issued a split ruling on American Electric Power's proposal for its Appalachian Power subsidiary to take a greater ownership role in two of its coal plants.
The Virginia SCC on Wednesday approved Apco's plan to acquire the remaining portion of its John Amos plant near St. Albans.
But the commission also rejected the company's effort to take over half of the Mitchell plant near Moundsville from a sister American Electric Power subsidiary, Ohio Power.
Virginia regulators also approved Apco's request to merge with another AEP subsidiary, Wheeling Power.
AEP President and CEO Nick Akins said his company was pleased with the ruling regarding the merger and the John Amos plant, but that the Mitchell portion of the decision was "disappointing."
In a prepared statement, Akins said that Virginia's denial of the Mitchell ownership transfer "is a complicating factor because there will be insufficient generation resources to serve the merged company."
"AEP intends to bring this matter to the attention of the parties and the Public Service Commission in West Virginia and may re-evaluate the merger," Akins said.
Because Appalachian operates as a regulated utility in both Virginia and West Virginia, the proposal needs approval from officials from both states.