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IOGA wants gas represented fairly in Mon Power coal gen case

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West Virginia natural gas producers want a say in Mon Power's proposal to buy coal-fired generation — but not to argue against it.

"What we're not interested in doing is kicking the coal industry when they're down," said Independent Oil and Gas Association of West Virginia President Dennis Xander.

Mon Power has a large deficit in generation capacity to serve its customers and those of Potomac Edison, IOGA reiterated in its Jan. 4 petition with the Public Service Commission of West Virginia to intervene in the case for Mon Power's proposed solution.

The utility proposes to increase its installed capacity by almost 1,500 megawatts, primarily through the acquisition of the 80 percent of the coal-fired Harrison Power Station that it does not already own.

"IOGA desires the opportunity to express its views to the commission about using natural gas as an inexpensive, clean and reliable fuel for power generation, and believes that its views will materially assist the commission in reaching a decision in this case," IOGA wrote in its petition.

That doesn't mean IOGA is going to argue that natural gas would be better, Xander said.

"We don't intend to take any kind of position in that," he said. "However, to the extent that the commission wants someone to step up and say, ‘Hey, look, the industry has an abundance of inexpensive, clean fuel that is an alternative,' we'll do that."

IOGA also wants to be sure to keep the record straight on what natural gas can and cannot do in the electric power industry.

"You're going to see a whole bunch of spreadsheets come out where people are going to calculate what the cost per kilowatt-hour would be under various scenarios," he predicted from long experience. "By intervening, we want to make sure whatever information the commission gets is right."

If the suggestion came up that the Harrison plant should pursue gas co-firing — burning natural gas with coal, something FirstEnergy already is considering at Harrison — IOGA would be behind that idea, Xander said.

"But we did not intervene for the purpose of trying to replace coal with natural gas," he said. "West Virginia needs coal jobs and coal severance taxes."

Follow Mon Power's generation resource transaction case on the PSC's website: case number 12-1571.