“The plant is equipped with the most modern, highly efficient equipment for the removal of fly ash from combustion gases... It is expected that about 95 percent of the fly ash will be removed this way.” 1
The plant was known for its innovative usage of fly ash, and plant manager Henry Skaggs was known as “the father of fly ash sales.” The plant itself was built using fly ash-based concrete and Skaggs’ dedication to reusing the coal byproduct in concrete and structural landfills meant that the Kanawha River Plant operated without an ash landfill.
At its peak, the Kanawha River Plant would have about 150 employees, and by the time it closed in 2015 was generating approximately $1.7 million in taxes for the local economy. Yet, over the years the plant had yet to be upgraded to reduce its emissions. Former WV President of the Senate Bill Cole was critical of AEP’s role in the lack of advancement:
“I’ve talked to AEP, these are rules and regulations that came down from Washington a number of years ago. So, they've known that these plants are going to shudder now and what they basically did was they quit maintaining them. They just ran them, they gutted them out, they didn't put any money back in and now it's not as simple as putting five hundred million dollars’ worth of scrubber in place it is literally that those plants are in just dire shape.” 2
In June of 2011, AEP announced that it planned to retire the Kanawha River Plant’s units 1 and 2, effectively shutting down the plant, due to upcoming EPA regulations. By December 2011, the EPA had formally announced its new Mercury and Air Toxic Standards, and the Kanawha River Plant and several other AEP plants did not meet the new emission standards. The plant could either attempt to convert to natural gas for fuel or AEP could retrofit the plant and install new equipment to meet the standards. AEP determined that neither of those options were cost effective or viable, particularly at the Kammer and Sporn plants.
Kanawha River, Kammer, and Sporn were the 9th, 10th, and 11th largest producers of electricity before the time of their retirement. The plant would continue operating until May 2015, with the remaining employees either transferring to the John Amos plant in Winfield, retiring, or receiving a severance package. At the request of the Public Service Commission of West Virginia, AEP had agreed to make no plans for the Kanawha River Plant site for at least four years after its closure, which would be 2019. Ultimately the plant ran for 62 years before its units were retired.