Kentucky PSC to hold meetings to explain Big Sandy coal shutdown

The Kentucky Public Service Commission (PSC) said April 24 that it will hold public meetings at sites in eastern Kentucky to explain Kentucky Power’s plans to shut the Big Sandy coal plant in eastern Kentucky and replace it with half of the Mitchell coal plant in West Virginia.

A public meeting will be held May 14 in Louisa, near the site of the Big Sandy plant. On May 15, the PSC will conduct a teleconference linking sites in Whitesburg and Hazard with the commission offices in Frankfort.

Both the meeting and the teleconference will begin with a presentation by PSC staff on the regulatory processes governing the case and an overview of the Kentucky Power proposal.

“These meetings are an opportunity for the public to learn how the PSC reaches a decision in cases such as this,” PSC Chairman David Armstrong said. “The meetings also allow the PSC to hear directly from ratepayers in these matters.”

Kentucky Power is seeking PSC approval of an agreement to purchase a 50% interest in Ohio Power’s Mitchell power plant, which is south of Moundsville, W.Va. Kentucky Power and Ohio Power are both subsidiaries of American Electric Power (NYSE: AEP). The 780 MW of capacity from Mitchell would nearly replace the 800 MW generated by Big Sandy Unit 2, which Kentucky Power plans to shut in mid-2015 to meet clean-air standards. It also plans to cease combustion of coal at Big Sandy Unit 1, but may convert that unit to natural gas instead of shutting it outright.

In its application, Kentucky Power says the cost of the Mitchell purchase will be about $536m. That is $404m less than the estimated cost of upgrading Big Sandy’s Unit 2 with an SO2 scrubber in order to meet stricter federal air quality standards, as the company earlier had proposed to do.

The 800-MW Big Sandy Unit 2 now is scheduled to close in mid-2015. The older, 278-MW Unit 2 at Big Sandy is scheduled to be either converted to burn natural gas or shut down by the end of 2014. Kentucky Power has not yet finalized plans for the unit or for replacing that power, the PSC noted. Kentucky Power has said that the supercritical pulverized coal design at Unit 2 does not lend itself to a gas conversion, while the subcritical design of Unit 1 does.

Both the Big Sandy units and the Mitchell units burn coal. But the Mitchell units are newer than the Big Sandy plant and have the equipment, including SO2 scrubbers, needed to comply with federal air quality regulations.

The public meetings are scheduled for:

  • Louisa, May 14, 5:00 p.m. EDT, Lawrence County Community Center;
  • Whitesburg, May 15, 5:00 p.m. EDT, Whitesburg Campus, Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College; and
  • Hazard, May 15, 5:00 pm EDT, University Center of the Mountains, Hazard Community and Technical College Main Campus.

In addition to the public meetings, the PSC will conduct a formal evidentiary hearing in the case beginning at 10 a.m. EDT on May 29 at its offices in Frankfort.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.