MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – A day after Longview Power announced they were filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy to restructure their debt, their Chief Executive Officer and President, Jeff Keffer spoke with Channel 12 about what the move means for the company.
The company said that it is filing for bankruptcy because of COVID-19 and a mild winter, which meant lessened demand for electricity and as a result lower prices leading to a severe economic impact. During a phone interview, Keffer said the company’s roughly 140 employees would not be impacted at all by this decision.
“We’re not going to change any of our staffing levels, there’s no furloughs, no layoffs because of this,” Keffer said. “We’re working really hard and every business is right now with this pandemic to preserve our employees’ job and make sure that they can continue to come to work and work at the plant and do what needs to be done and go home safely each day with the paycheck they’ve always received.”
The bankruptcy filing is a “prepackaged plan”, as made clear in the initial announcement, which came in the form of a press release.
Keffer said there was no controversy about what needed to be done because they’ve worked out an arrangement with their senior secured lenders who are going to wipe out their $350 million debt and convert it into ownership interests in the company.
“That allows us to get through the bankruptcy quickly,” Keffer said. “They’re also going to commit to provide $40 million of financing going forward, which is going to be great because it’s going to give us the liquidity we need through the ups and downs in the market we’re dealing with right now.”
As far as Longview’s expansion plans, Keffer said, those are still intact.
That is because Longview’s lenders are also interested in pursuing their expansion which will create a 1,200-megawatt natural gas combined cycle plant and a 70-megawatt solar facility.
As previously mentioned, Longview cites the COVID-19 outbreak and a mild winter as reasons for lessened demand of their services, Keffer elaborated on that matter during the phone call.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is horrendous and terrible for everybody in the country,” Keffer said. “And all the people that are losing jobs right now and the businesses that are struggling and we’re struggling because of it too because all of those businesses that have shut down mean that there’s a lot less demand for electricity, which has greatly reduced the amount of electricity that is being purchased by PJM to be supplied to customers, which means the price has gone down significantly and that’s been a real struggle for us.”
As far as having a mild winter goes, Keffer said, that it appears to be associated with climate change. However, he said looking at the past eight winters, four of them have had significant polar vortex events, which means there is a need for Longview’s coal-powered plant which isn’t subject to freezing lines like many natural gas plants are.
During these dire times, Keefer said, the community has shown them a great deal of support and for that he’s appreciative.
“We’ve gotten a number of calls, we’ve gotten a number of emails from people who are saying ‘hang in there, we like what you’re trying to do, we like what you’ve been, you’ve been a good neighbor in West Virginia and we’re very proud that we’ve got the cleanest coal plant in the world operating in West Virginia, right next to Pennsylvania and we hope that you’ll continue doing that’,” Keffer said. “So I just want to say I’m really grateful for the tremendous support that we’ve gotten and we’re going to continue to be a good neighbor and we’re going to continue to make sure that everybody gets the electricity they need when they need it.”