CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The West Virginia-Citizen Action Group said Tuesday it will appeal a state Public Service Commission ruling that paved the way for FirstEnergy to transfer ownership of a Harrison County power plant to its West Virginia subsidiary, Monongahela Power.
Citing a strongly worded dissent by Public Service Commissioner Ryan Palmer, WV-CAG said it would try to convince the state Supreme Court that the PSC decision allows FirstEnergy to greatly overvalue the transaction and wrongly pass the increased costs on to West Virginia ratepayers.
"The only winner in this deal is FirstEnergy," said Gary Zuckett, executive director of WV-CAG, which broke from the Sierra Club and the PSC Consumer Advocate Division in opposing a settlement aimed at allowing the FirstEnergy transaction.
FirstEnergy spokesman Todd Meyers said the company is still reviewing the PSC ruling, a 2-1 decision in which Chairman Michael Albert and Commissioner Jon McKinney approved the $1.1 billion deal.
The case is one of two such proposals that have been under consideration by the PSC. In the other, American Electric Power wants to transfer its John Amos plant near St. Albans and its Mitchell facility near Moundsville to its Charleston-based Appalachian Power subsidiary. The PSC has not ruled in that case.
The power companies have argued their proposals will help them deal with upcoming deficits in electricity needed to serve Mon Power customers in northern West Virginia and Appalachian Power customers in the southern part of the state.
But critics argued that both proposals ignored the potential gains from better demand-side energy efficiency programs, and would lock the utilities into generation mixes that are too narrowly focused on coal.
"Moving forward with a portfolio of over 90 percent coal-dependent generation for the foreseeable future, despite the tangible risks, will leave the utility with no ability to shift generation between fuel sources in response to market signals, and is unreasonable," Palmer wrote in his 10-page dissent in the FirstEnergy case.
In Monday's 50-page decision, the PSC majority ruled to approve an August settlement proposal that FirstEnergy reached with the commission staff, the agency's consumer advocate, and the Sierra Club, all of which had originally proposed the Harrison plant deal.
The immediate result for Mon Power customers -- as the PSC highlighted in a press release -- is a $16 million rate reduction. But that savings comes from the company's plan to distribute to customers over a short, 19-month period the $25 million cost of Mon Power selling to a sister FirstEnergy company a small share of the Pleasants Power Plant near Willow Island.
And more broadly, the PSC approval would allow Mon Power to pass on to customers about $858 million of the $1.1 billion cost of the Harrison plant transaction.