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APCo billion-dollar power plant transfer case to be heard July 16-18

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What will coming greenhouse gas emissions regulations cost utilities that run coal-fired power stations?

That question became more pressing last month when President Obama directed the Environmental Protection Agency to issue limits on carbon emissions from existing power plants by 2015.

It's one of the issues that will be discussed in the July 16-18 evidentiary hearing on Appalachian Power's billion-dollar proposal before the Public Service Commission of West Virginia. The company proposes to buy parts of three coal-fired units to meet future ratepayer demand.

APCo assumed in the proposal it filed in December a carbon tax of $15 per ton of carbon dioxide emitted, starting in 2022.

Since that time, the federal government set its estimate of the "social cost of carbon" at $35 per ton — not a tax, but relevant as a figure government agencies use when setting new regulations to determine what costs to society are worthwhile.

Soon after, Obama directed the EPA to set limits on carbon emissions from existing power plants by 2015. Many observers expect that program to be fully operational around the early 2020s.

Also sure to be discussed at the July 16-18 evidentiary hearing are the other cost estimates that led APCo to decide that the coal-fired assets are its least-cost option, whether energy efficiency could play a larger role in keeping rates down, and the feasibility and value of requiring the company to issue a Request for Proposals to test the market.

The State Journal will provide detailed coverage of the hearing. To catch up on the case in advance, read filings in case number 12-1655 at www.psc.state.wv.us.