- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 8, 2015

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - West Virginia regulators have asked Appalachian Power to maintain infrastructure at a closed coal-fired power plant that could one day be used to convert the facility to natural gas.

Fully demolishing the Kanawha River Plant would rule out such a conversion, the Public Service Commission said in an order issued Tuesday.

“We’re just starting to understand the implications of the order,” Appalachian Power spokeswoman Jeri Matheney said Wednesday. “We’re going to have look at these costs and the feasibility of complying with the order.”

The PSC’s staff had asked the commission in May to direct Appalachian Power to provide information regarding the closures of the Kanawha River Plant at Glasgow, the Kammer Plant near Moundsville and the Phillip Sporn Plant at New Haven. The coal-fired plants shut down on May 31.

“Based on our analysis of the data presented to date in this proceeding, it appears the Kanawha River plant site may be a reasonable candidate for further consideration of conversion to natural gas in the future,” the PSC’s order stated.

The PSC asked the company to maintain the plant’s infrastructure for at least four years.

“APCo should further consider whether property or equipment at the other Distribution Units may contribute to natural gas conversion at those or other plant sites in the future before it takes irreversible steps to demolish or dispose of such equipment,” the commission’s order stated.

Appalachian Power also should consider the implications of a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the Environmental Protection Agency should have considered the costs and benefits of its plan to impose limits on mercury and other hazardous air pollutants, the order said.

The company had said equipping the plants to comply with the new standard would be cost-prohibitive. Three coal-fired plants in Virginia, Indiana and Ohio also were closed, while another in Glen Lyn, Virginia, is being converted to natural gas.

“The Commission suggests that the future of APCo’s generation needs, and future plans, may be more uncertain today than in the past,” the PSC’s order stated.

Matheney said the company agrees with the PSC’s assessment.

“We’re challenged not only by the EPA rules and the timing of the rules, but we still have to make critical business decisions every day,” she said.

Appalachian Power said in a June filing with the PSC that it has not conducted a detailed study of the full cost to convert the West Virginia plants to natural gas. The Glen Lyn plant was chosen for conversion because constructing a natural gas pipeline to it is less expensive than the other sites.

Appalachian Power also said it does not have a timeline for demolishing any of the plants.

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