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W.Va. Groups Challenge Mon Power's Plant Purchase

By VICKI SMITH

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) â¿¿ A utility watchdog group says Mon Power's proposed purchase of a coal-fired power plant in north-central West Virginia would unfairly pass costs on to consumers when the utility should be investing in plans to make its operations and its customers more energy-efficient.

Energy Efficient West Virginia is hosting what it calls a "Power Hour" in Morgantown on Wednesday to educate people about energy efficiency and to build opposition to the utility's $1.1 billion deal with a sister company, Allegheny Energy Supply. Both are subsidiaries of Ohio-based FirstEnergy Corp. Energy Efficient West Virginia is a coalition of 14 companies and civic and environmental groups, including the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition.

Last fall, the utilities submitted a plan to the West Virginia Public Service Commission that would transfer full ownership of the Harrison Power Station in Haywood to Mon Power, which currently owns only 20 percent.

In exchange, Mon Power would sell its 8 percent share of the Pleasants Power station at Willow Island to AE Supply, giving that subsidiary 100 percent ownership.

The PSC has scheduled hearings in Charleston for May 29-31 on the transaction, which would also require the approval of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The utilities are seeking a temporary transaction surcharge to cover the costs of the deal, and those surcharges would eventually become part of their new base rates.

A typical residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt-hours per month would pay less than $1 more than last year's monthly bill, said Mon Power spokesman Todd Meyers.

Mon Power has said it won't proceed with the purchase if the surcharge is denied.

But Chris Shepherd of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition said Monday that utilities are trying to shift the costs of old, inefficient coal-fired plants onto consumers rather than investing in system-wide energy efficiency plans for "their captive ratepayers."

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