West Virginia official seeks halt to any destruction of Kanawha River coal plant

A member of the Kanawha County Commission, W. Kent Carper, sent an Oct. 27 letter to the West Virginia Public Service Commission saying that American Electric Power‘s (NYSE: AEP) Appalachian Power Co. (APCo) subsidiary is moving to “destruct” the shut Kanawha River coal plant, meaning it won’t be available for any conversion to natural gas.

Said the letter: “I write concerning the current state of the Kanawha River Plant which APCo previously decommissioned. In July of last year, the Public Service Commission correctly found that the Kanawha River Plant was a potential candidate for future consideration of conversion to natural gas. Further, the Commission found that APCo should maintain the infrastructure at the Kanawha River Plant for at least four years as options for possible conversion are considered.

“Recently it was reported to me that APCo is in the processing of moving forward with plans to destruct the plant. Further, I understand the permits regarding the Kanawha River Plant have been allowed to expire. Unfortunately, this information does not surprise me, as APCo has steadfastly refused to consider any alternatives to save the Kanawha River Plant.

“Therefore, I maintain that APCo should make a good faith effort to abide by the Commission’s Final Order in this case, which found that the infrastructure at the plant should be maintained because the Kanawha River Plant is a potential for conversion to natural gas. On behalf of the citizens of Kanawha County, I urge the Public Service Commission, and the Consumer Advocate Division, to do everything in their power to ensure that APCo undertakes all possible efforts to find alternative uses for the Kanawha River Plant.”

The coal-fired Kanawha River power plant, while not a good candidate right now for conversion to natural gas, may at some point be a good candidate in place of new gas-fired power plant build, APCo had told the West Virginia commission in an October 2015 filing in this case. The commission had opened up a review earlier that year of the planned shutdown by APCo of several coal-fired units, with the shutdowns due largely to compliance needs under the federal Mercury and Air Toxics Standards. They were Units 5 and 6 of the Glen Lyn Plant, Units 1 and 2 of the Kanawha River Plant, and Units 1 and 3 of the Sporn Plant. These are among thousands of MWs of coal-fired capacity that AEP shut around the end of May 2015 across its Midwest system.

Details on the affected units are:

  • Glen Lyn Unit 5 (90 MW) and Unit 6 (235 MW);
  • Unit 1 (200 MW) and Unit 2 (200 MW) at Kanawha River;
  • Unit 1 (145 MW) and Unit 3 (145 MW) at Sporn; and
  • Unit 3 (230 MW) at Clinch River.

Said AEP spokesperson Jeri Matheney in an Oct. 28 e-mail statement to Generation Hub: “On October 6, 2016, Appalachian Power made a request to the Public Service Commission of West Virginia to be relieved of the obligation to retain the Kanawha River Plant. It’s been more than a year since the PSC issued the order directing that retention. Appalachian Power made this request to the PSC because we believe it is in the best interest of our customers and the state, as well as the company. After careful consideration and study over the last year, we determined that converting the Kanawha River Plant to natural gas is not feasible or economical. To repeat, the economics simply don’t support it. Continuing to hold the plant in suspension incurs costs in the form of maintenance, labor and permitting for no good reason. Plus, it prevents the plant, its equipment and the property from being redeveloped for another purpose, which could benefit the community and the state. We’ve expressed this in our request to the PSC and will abide by its decision.”

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.