Battle lines drawn over fate of WV coal-fired power plant

West Virginia

CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — The West Virginia State Public Service Commission met for hearings in Charleston today. At issue, is whether to let the Mitchell Power plant in Marshall County in the Northern Panhandle go offline in 2028, as it is currently scheduled, or keep it open until 2040.

Coal industry backers say the job losses will be huge if 2028 is chosen.

“So I’m supporting not only the jobs of coal miners, railroad workers, and everyone associated with it but also for the country. The security we have depends upon good, reliable electricity,” said Rep. David McKinley, (D) West Virginia – District 1.

With 200 people employed at the plant, and several hundred others in construction and electric trades, advocates for 2040, say the earlier date would have a huge ripple effect.

“The tax base loss to our community that would impact our schools and our municipalities and our first responders. It would really be devastating,” said Del. Lisa Zukoff, (D) Marshall.

But critics say the cost of upgrades could exceed $400 million, and be passed onto your utility bill.

“We don’t think that’s fair. Our electric rates have gone up 150% since the middle of the 2000s,” said Gary Zuckett, West Virginia Citizen Action.

And environmentalists say the focus needs to be a transition to clean energy.

“Retraining, economic development, solar and wind. There’s a lot of options out there and we need to be moving into a new energy economy, and not get left behind,” Zuckett of Citizen Action said.

Supporters of keeping the plant until 2040 say that will help coal mines in every corner of the state.

“Following these hearings the State Public Service Commission will continue to gather evidence, and perhaps render its final decision in the next several weeks,” said Mark Curtis, 13 News Chief Political Reporter.

Follow Mark Curtis on Facebook and Twitter for the latest local and breaking news.

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