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FirstEnergy to deactivate, attempt to sell 1,300-MW W.Va. coal plant

FirstEnergy Corp. affiliate Allegheny Energy Supply Co. on Feb. 16 announced that it will deactivate and look to sell the 1,300-MW coal-fired Pleasants power station in Willow Island, W.Va., on Jan. 1, 2019. FirstEnergy recently canceled its plans to transfer the facility to regulated utility subsidiary Monongahela Power Co.

"We will continue to pursue opportunities to sell the plant while planning for deactivation," FirstEnergy President and CEO Charles Jones said in a news release.

In March 2017, Mon Power sought regulatory approval to acquire the coal-fired facility from Allegheny Energy Supply to resolve a projected 10-year energy capacity shortfall and to decrease electric bills for customers.

However, on Jan. 12, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission rejected the proposed transfer of the facility, which would move it from an unregulated FirstEnergy affiliate to a regulated one. The commission said that the transaction may not be in the public interest because it was based on a request for proposals that did not meet the standards established to ensure transactions do not result in improper cross-subsidization among affiliates.

Meanwhile, the Public Service Commission of West Virginia in late January approved the sale but imposed "certain significant conditions." FirstEnergy then terminated plans to transfer the facility between its affiliates, contending that the conditions set in the PSC's approval would make the proposed transfer unworkable as it would result in Mon Power assuming exposure and significant commodity risk.

"Closing Pleasants is a very difficult choice because of the talented employees dedicated to reliable operation of the station and the communities who have supported the facility for many years. But the recent federal and West Virginia decisions leave FirstEnergy no reasonable option but to expeditiously move forward with deactivation of the plant," Jones said.

The plant deactivation is subject to the review of the PJM Interconnection for any reliability impact. About 190 employees will be affected by the facility's closure.

Pleasants began operations in 1979 and is comprised of two 650-MW generating units. Its coal suppliers, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence data, include Alliance Resource Partners LP's Tunnel Ridge Mine in Ohio County, W.Va., and Murray Energy Corp.'s Marshall County Mine in Marshall County, W.Va. It is also heavily used. Its annual capacity factor since 2010 has ranged between about 60% and 75%. In November 2017, the plant's capacity factor topped 95%, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence data.