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Justice defends appointment of Raney to Public Service Commission

WHEELING — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice on Friday defended his appointment of retired West Virginia Coal Association President Bill Raney to the State Public Service Commission.

The commission’s mission is to “ensure fair and prompt regulation of public utilities; to provide for adequate, economical and reliable utility services throughout the state; and to appraise and balance the interests of current and future utility service customers with the general interest of the state’s economy and the interests of the utilities,” according to its website.

Justice termed Raney “a great man” and a great choice to be on the commission.

“Bill has served this state in every way,” he said. “He worked hand and hand and led the charge with the Coal Association for years and years. He will absolutely be sworn in in the coming weeks, and I know he will do a tremendous job.

“He loves our state beyond good sense — just like I do. I think the world of him. He is so qualified and so well-versed it’s unbelievable.”

Justice was asked if his selection of Raney to join the PSC means the commission is being tilted toward coal producers.

“I don’t want us to walk away from coal producers,” he said. “We are an energy producing state, and we should be proud of it. Bill Raney will do a great job in any way I can imagine.”

Raney will assume the seat vacated by former State Sen. Brooks McCabe, D-Kanawha. Brooks’ term expired June 30. He will join Charlotte Lane and Renee Larrick on the commission.

Justice commended the sitting commissioners for their decision this week to approve a certificate of convenience and necessity requested by Appalachian Power and Wheeling Power for the Mitchell Power Plant, the John Amos Power Plant in Putnam County, and the Mountaineer Power Plant in Mason County.

The move is expected to permit the power plants to continue operating until 2040.

“I think it’s the right decision,” Justice said. “We can’t afford to risk our base load generation capacities. We must do everything we can to protect these plants and protect those jobs. … We want to embrace renewables. We want to embrace the clean air efforts, but we’re not ready. Hopefully, we’ll be ready someday. But right now we’re not ready.

“If anybody thinks we can move to renewables and we don’t need coal, we don’t need gas, we don’t need oil … that’s a frivolous, silly thought. It is absolutely wrong. In the meantime we’re going to lose jobs on an experiment that’s going to turn around and bite every last one of us in the butt.”

Justice said he knows if plans for renewables would fail, people soon would be standing on street corners with signs reading “drill, baby, drill.”

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