By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
On April 12, 2019, FreedomWorks LLC withdrew its request application from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to study the feasibility of a potential Pump Storage Hydro Project in Tucker County. When Tim Williamson, member of FreedomWorks, was informed of the denial from the National Forest Service in March, he set out to receive congressional support from local, state, and higher government representatives and officials in attempt to appeal or find a way to continue forward with their project. Williamson stated, “WV U.S. Senate Energy Committee Staffers have advised there is no appeal process for permit decisions made at United States Forest Service (USFS). In addition, if an appeal were somehow to be launched to review recent USFS/Monongahela decision to deny a special use permit (SUP) for feasibility studies, the decision by the Regional Forest Supervisor would be the same, permit denied.”
Williamson also shared, “As a result, there is no point to holding a FERC Preliminary Permit, or reporting non-progress on the project. So, in spite of great fanfare regarding climate impacts to forests, and also a need for big energy storage projects in the PJM, I find it hard to imagine any renewable energy project being approved or built today in a National Forest east of the Mississippi River. After energy proposals denied in the George Washington/Jefferson, Pisgah, and now the Monongahela National Forest, I declare a SUP permit for a utility-scale renewable energy project is impossible to obtain in at least three National Forests.”
More now than ever, FreedomWorks believes this project was completely viable in the area chosen due to the extensive research they have been required to conduct which still lead to the project being terminated. Williamson apologizes to the community, stating “…Tucker County lost guaranteed revenue growth, jobs, training and community benefits like improved fire, life safety and police services that would have come with the project. The State of West Virginia also may have lost an opportunity to hedge against dramatic declines in coal output by the end of the 2030s, and the very likely closure of Mt. Storm coal-fired generation plant.” He also noted, “WVU’s College of Business and Economics predicts a dramatic decline in coal output by the end of the 2030s (see: https://business.wvu.edu/files/d/86162acb-4a6b-4a4e-ae67-c579cf4581fb/wv-coal-production-outlook-2018-2040.pdf ), and a new VCE/EI report identifies that local renewable energy costs >25% less than Dominion Energy’s Mt. Storm Generation Plant. Meaning, the Mt. Storm coal plant is currently at-risk if it were not for Dominion Energy’s current Virginia SCC regulatory protections.”
As it stands now, the project proposal is finished. There is nothing more to do to go forward to seek out approval to move forward with the study phases of this facility. With the denial from the National Forest Service and no option to appeal, moving forward is not feasible or possible.