West Virginia utility regulators will consider a request to have state residents pay for upgrades at three coal-fired power plants after regulators in other states declined to support the changes because they were not economical.

The Public Service Commission agreed Thursday to reopen the case and scheduled a hearing on Sept. 24, the Charleston Gazette-Mail reported.

Appalachian Power and Wheeling Power filed a request Wednesday to have to West Virginia customers be responsible for $48 million annually for upgrades to keep the John Amos, Mountaineer and Mitchell coal-fired generating plants in Putnam, Mason and Marshall counties compliant. The upgrades to plants that are subsidiaries of American Electric Power are federally mandated to keep the facilities operating past 2028.

The companies are asking West Virginia customers to shoulder the cost because Kentucky and Virginia utility regulators rejected requests to pass on costs to consumers in those states served by the plants.

West Virginia Public Service Commission Chairperson Charlotte Lane said in a statement that the commission is evaluating the request and will issue an order by Oct. 13.

The proposal got support from West Virginia Coal Association President Chris Hamilton, who said saving the three coal-fired power generating facilities’ economic output is worth the additional cost burden.

“We believe it’s a good proposition for the state of West Virginia … to keep the economic activity that surrounds these three plants, plus all the downstream coal mining and coal transportation and coal handling jobs and all that commerce,” Hamilton said.

Others opposed the move to have West Virginia ratepayers pick up the cost burden that Kentucky and Virginia rejected.

“I just can’t believe they’re thinking of (saddling) West Virginian ratepayers with hundreds of millions of dollars in upgrades that really need to be slated for retirement now,” said Karan Ireland, central Appalachia senior campaign representative for the Sierra Club.

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