Energy & Environment

A West Virginia-based coal plant operator has announced that it’s filing for bankruptcy due to weak demand for electricity. Longview Power LLC, which operates one of the newest and most efficient coal-fired power plants in the U.S. hailed by the Trump administration as a model for coal’s future, announced in a Tuesday press release that it would seek to restructure its debts and ownership structure under the Chapter 11 bankruptcy process.

The company cited low power demand, driven by a mild winter, cheap natural gas prices and the COVID-19 global pandemic.

“This filing is unfortunate but necessary given the current depressed power prices, which have further dropped more recently due to the terrible COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the nation and dramatic effects of the pandemic on the economy,” said Longview CEO Jeff Keffer.

Longview operates a 700-megawatt coal-fired power plant near Morgantown. The plant has been championed by federal officials, including former Energy Secretary Rick Perry, who visited the plant in 2017.

“This plant — and I won’t say plants like it, because there’s not a lot like it — is incredibly important to the future of this country,” Perry said, during the tour.

The company says operations will continue during the bankruptcy.

In an interview last fall, Keffer was optimistic about Longview’s ability as a younger coal plant to weather the larger sector-wide coal downturn.

“We’re able to produce electricity more efficiently than any other coal plant in our region, the PJM region,” he said. “We’re able to do it at lower costs than just about any other fossil fuel that includes gas-fired plants.”

But that was before the coronavirus pandemic shuttered large swaths of the U.S. economy, which included lowering demand for electricity.

The filing does not affect a 1,200 megawatt natural gas plant and 70 megawatt solar farm Longview proposed in 2019. The two power generators will be constructed adjacent to the coal facility and were recently approved by state regulators.

Based at WVPB in Morgantown, WV, Brittany Patterson covers all things energy and environment.