By Rep. Rocky Adkins
Devastating is not a word to use lightly as it describes great damage, harm and destruction.
But I believe it perfectly illustrates the effects Lawrence County and our region will experience as a direct result of the Public Service Commission’s decision to close Big Sandy Power Plant’s Unit 2.
The PSC ruled this week that Kentucky Power may buy Ohio Power’s Mitchell Power Plant and transmit that electricity to Kentucky concluding this option is less costly than retrofitting Big Sandy with scrubbers.
I cannot disagree more. This decision will cut 160 or more jobs at the plant, wipe out $1 million in tax revenues for our schools and county government and create a downward economic spiral that will have lasting, negative effects for our communities and region for years to come.
There was and is a better plan, and I fought for that plan for the last two years. I believe, and made my case to the PSC on several occasions, that putting scrubbers on Big Sandy is the best low-cost option in the short run and the best low-cost option over the next 30 years.
I don’t think there was a fair calculation of what is the least cost option by the PSC, and I am terribly disappointed that they did not fully assess the data in the record that bore those facts out. And I wasn’t alone.
The Kentucky Attorney General’s office said in a media statement: “Kentucky Power did not thoroughly evaluate other options available to it, such as purchasing the power on the market from other electric utilities. Additionally, the company did not conduct an economic feasibility study, as the law requires, to determine whether its ratepayers could afford the increased rates that will result from this plan.”
The Kentucky Attorney General, who represents consumers in rate cases, also said that he is exploring legal options regarding the ruling.
Lawrence County Attorney Mike Hogan has pled the case for retrofitting Big Sandy with scrubbers as well, along with countless residents, business owners, school and local government officials, who know too well that we cannot sustain another devastating economic hit that this decision brings.
The battle may have been lost, but the war wages on.
Our options include asking the PSC to reconsider its order. The commission’s order can be appealed to the circuit court as well.
But there could be merit in considering other uses for the Big Sandy plant.
One is the possibility of the facility being purchased by investors or another utility company and hopefully AEP would be open to that discussion.
Another option would be to pursue a portion of the $8 billion in federal monies to retrofit the plant utilizing state-of-the-art technologies that would preserve the plant and jobs for generations to come.
This would be a monumental effort but, if successful, would create hundreds of permanent jobs and a thousand construction jobs; capitalize on Kentucky’s national reputation as the leader in energy technologies; bring about stability and certainty for our region’s ratepayers; and provide an economic burst of activity that could literally change our future.
While the PSC decision has devastating consequences, it will not stop me or you from focusing on our next steps to save Big Sandy. We will either convince them they’ve made a bad decision, or we will go forward to manage our own destiny with bold ideas.