NEW HAVEN — U.S. Congressman Evan Jenkins (R-Huntington) was recently in Mason County to talk energy.
The congressman visited Appalachian Electric Power’s Mountaineer Plant in New Haven to get an idea of how the plant operates and issues it faces in an environment that seems increasingly hostile when it comes to “coal-fired” power.
Jenkins said some key facts he came away with while visiting the plant was that it “has decades of life in it.” Though built in the 1970’s, Jenkins said it is “not in the final life stages because of investments and improvements.”
Jenkins talked about the $700 million investment AEP made to make it, what he described as “one of the most technologically advanced plants and environmentally sound coal-fired plants.”
The plant employs around 184 full-time employees but provides more jobs via subcontractors depending on the plant’s needs, Jenkins added.
Mountaineer uses 10,000 tons of coal each day to run the plant, which typically operates over 70 percent of its full capacity and it is a 1300 megawatt power plant, Jenkins said, adding the coal used is from the northern panhandle.
“They said the plant can, at this capacity, generate enough electricity to run 200 cities the size of Point Pleasant,” he said.
As for the issue of emissions, Jenkins said plant operators told him, based on the status of the current environmental laws and technologies like the scrubbers, “they say they are fully in compliance with all the rules and regulations that are out there…they’re not behind the times. Everyone can be assured it (the plant) meets all the environmental standards which are much more stringent than they were.”
Of course, a conversation about the Mountaineer plant often leads to one on the future of the now closed Philip Sporn Plant – that future being in the actual site the plant sits on. Jenkins said his office has been in contact with AEP officials about the site as has Mason County Economic Development Director John Musgrave. Musgrave has taken the lead in trying to get the site for future economic development, with at least what were described by Jenkins, as initial steps of engagement going in the right direction toward that goal.
Also, Jenkins said AEP has committed to further transmission line construction in the area which helps fill at least some of the “fiscal void” left by the Sporn closure.
As for the role of government in attracting jobs, Jenkins said he believes government’s role is to not impede job opportunities.
“Too often people think it’s government’s responsibility to bring in a plant,” he said. “What I think we need to do is get the policy right that allows plants to come, not over regulate and over burden and over restrict…and not have economic potential pinched off.”
Reach Beth Sergent at [email protected] or on Twitter @BSergentWrites.