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Coal Association supporting transfer of Harrison to Mon Power

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The West Virginia Coal Association wants a chance to make its case in support of FirstEnergy's proposal to transfer ownership of the Harrison coal-fired power station to Mon Power.

FirstEnergy filed its $1 billion proposal in November with the Public Service Commission of West Virginia.

Mon Power's purchase of the plant would meet demand into the future and prevent the need for going to the open market for power, the companies argue in the filing.

Opponents have raised concerns about further tying Mon Power customers to coal, with natural gas projected to remain inexpensive.

The West Virginia Coal Association wrote in its March 29 petition to intervene that it has "direct and significant interests" in the case.

"Harrison's been awful good to use local West Virginia-mined coal up there," said Coal Association President Bill Raney when asked about those interests. Harrison receives coal from by conveyor from Consol's Robinson Run #95 mine.

"It's a very low-cost and efficient plant, and this would bring it into the fold, if you will, and give some reassurance of the future there and back down the supply line," Raney said.

Raney expressed the fear that, if Mon Power had to go to the open market for power, it might buy power not necessarily generated from West Virginia coal.

The Coal Association is represented in this case by Charlotte Lane with the Charleston law firm Shuman, McCuskey & Slicer, who also acts as a lobbyist for FirstEnergy.

Raney said he didn't see any appearance of impropriety in that.

"The utility industry, that part of the world is so complicated that I think there are few people that are conversant with that," he said. "You've got a very small population of legal counsel as well experts who truly and fully understand all the intricacies of utility regulation."