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PSC seeks hearing on Harrison plant deal

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The state Public Service Commission isn't going to give FirstEnergy the speedy approval the company sought regarding a proposed deal to transfer its Harrison Power Plant to a West Virginia subsidiary.

Late Monday, the PSC issued an order saying it plans to schedule a hearing sometime next month for a more thorough discussion of the proposed settlement between Mon Power, the PSC staff, the agency's consumer advocate, and various industry groups.

Lawyers for FirstEnergy's Monongahela Power subsidiary had asked the PSC to approve the settlement "as soon as possible, but no later than Aug. 30, 2013," a request the commissioners said they would "chalk up ... to corporate enthusiasm."

"The issues to be decided in this proceeding are too numerous, too significant from a rate-making and cost-of-service perspective, and too important to current and future ratepayers, Mon Power and [sister company] Potomac Edison, and the economy of the state to suggest that they be treated in anything other than a detailed and thoughtful manner by the commission," the PSC said in its five-page procedural order.

The order did not set a date for the hearing, but asked lawyers in the case to confer with the commission's clerk about potential dates.

FirstEnergy is seeking PSC approval to sell its Harrison Power Station near Shinnston to subsidiary Mon Power. The company says the move is the best option to deal with deficits in electricity needed to serve Mon Power customers in West Virginia.

Critics say FirstEnergy proposed an overvalued transaction, ignored the potential gains from better demand-side energy efficiency programs and locked the Mon Power subsidiary into a generation mix that is too narrowly focused on coal.

FirstEnergy said the agreement includes a commitment to "bring more jobs" to West Virginia, and provides financial contributions for economic development, weatherization programs, low-income utility payment assistance and an education program to promote energy efficiency initiatives in the state's public schools.

The West Virginia-Citizen Action Group, which intervened in the case, is continuing to oppose the transaction and opposes the settlement. The Sierra Club, which also intervened to oppose the transaction as originally proposed by FirstEnergy, has said it tentatively approved of the deal, but is still reviewing it.

Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kward@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.


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