CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – The West Virginia Public Service Commission says the Mitchell, Amos, and Mountaineer coal-fired power plants can keep operating until 2040, instead of their projected phase-outs in 2028.

The coal industry, which backed the extension, says it’s good for jobs and the long-term economy.

“The economic impact of this decision, and its generated in these local and regional communities, is just phenomenal. There’s no replacement for these current jobs that are there,” remarks Chris Hamilton with the West Virginia Coal Association.

But critics say the plants will need more than 300 million dollars in environmental upgrades, and all of that will be paid for by ratepayers, and not by Appalachian Power.

“It’s going to be more rate increases. And, at some point we have to say, how much is too much? How much more do we have to keep paying, to keep these power plants online?” says Emmett Pepper, with Energy Efficient West Virginia.

Opponents also say West Virginia needs to focus on converting to cleaner energy, such as solar and wind. The Public Service Commissions in Kentucky and Virginia must also weigh in since power companies in those states own a portion of the West Virginia plants.

Critics of extending the lives of these power plants say they are exploring their avenues to appeal the decision, so this fight is likely not over.