By Vicki Smith
The Associated Press
The developer of a $2 billion coal-fired power plant in north-central West Virginia filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Friday but said neither its workers nor its customers will be affected in the short term.
Longview Power LLC said in a press release that it and Mepco Holdings LLC intend to operate while they negotiate with lenders to “de-risk” their balance sheets. Payroll and benefits to 95 plant workers at the Longview Power Plant in Maidsville won’t be affected.
Longview CEO Jeffery Keffer called the filing in Delaware bankruptcy court “a necessary and prudent step” to strengthen the business and operate without interruption.
Morgantown-based Mepco owns or operates three active underground coal mines and one active surface mine in northern West Virginia and southwestern Pennsylvania. A new 4.5-mile conveyor belt runs directly from Mepco subsidiary Dana Mining Co.’s 4 West coal mine in Pennsylvania to the Longview complex.
The plant burns 2 million tons of coal a year, and 90 percent of that comes from Dana, which employs 350-400 coal miners.
The 700-megawatt Longview Power Plant is one of the nation’s newest and cleanest coal-fired power plants, with more than $500 million of its $2 billion price tag dedicated to environmental and air-quality controls.
In June, General Manager Charles Huguenard told The Associated Press that it’s also the biggest single private-sector investment in West Virginia to date. It’s owned by GenPower Holdings.
The plant was permitted in 2003, built over several years and went online in December 2011. It sells power wholesale to PJM, the 13-state grid for the Mid-Atlantic region.
The plant also supports local truck drivers, service industries and limestone quarries, using the pulverized rock to neutralize gases. Indirectly, that amounts to more than 600 jobs.
But the company said “construction failures and defects have prevented the power plant from operating reliably at its designed capacity.”
Huguenard didn’t immediately return a message seeking further explanation Friday afternoon.
Keffer said the company has been in “consensual negotiations” with its biggest lenders for some time.
“Those negotiations remain ongoing,” he said. “We remain confident that the company and our lenders will reach an agreement on the terms of a Chapter 11 plan in the near term.”
Longview his filed motions with the court asking it to allow business to continue uninterrupted, and it expects them to be heard after the Labor Day weekend.