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Akins discusses earnings, utility issues on ‘Mad Money’ program

AEP CEO Nick Akins appeared on CNBC-TV’s “Mad Money w/Jim Cramer” program July 23.

Nick Akins, AEP chairman, president and chief executive officer, appeared on CNBC-TV’s “Mad Money w/Jim Cramer” program July 23 to discuss AEP’s strong second-quarter earnings report, the prospect of future dividend increases, coal’s continued struggles and more.

View the video segment.

With higher treasury yields and some financial turmoil across the country, the question remains as to whether or not investors will move back into the “safe” haven of utility stocks. Cramer noted that, in other sectors, a robust earnings report would move a company’s stock up significantly. That was not true for AEP following its second-quarter earnings announcement July 23. “Are utility investors just different?” Cramer asked.

“That’s true,” said Akins. “A lot of our investors are long-term investors, and for us to continue to invest and beat the market really says a lot about the foundational elements we’ve provided during this year. It’s a good year — a great year — for us, so we will continue plodding along to ensure that we continue with those revenues for our investors. That’s clearly a positive for us.”

But, if the company is making a lot of money, is it reasonable to assume that stock dividend increases are more likely than decreases?

“That’s true,” Akins agreed. “Our board and our management are focused on earnings improvement, and our dividend continues to track our earnings improvement. Typically our board evaluates that in October and will continue to do so.”

Turning to coal and its many struggles, what does the country’s current aversion to coal mean for the U.S. and American Electric Power?

“I think it’s a particular challenge. Coal needs to remain a part of the portfolio but there is a massive change going on in terms of rebalancing that portfolio, particularly in light of shale gas activities, the advent of renewables and other technologies that are forming,” Akins noted, “so we need to balance the (generation) fleet to build the security of our energy supply, but coal needs to stay there, as well.”

Will there ever be another new coal plant built in this country?

“I don’t really see that happening because, at this point, you have to have some form of carbon capture and storage in place, and it’s very, very expensive,” Akins answered. “And with natural gas there, that’s certainly going to be the fuel of choice for central station generation.”

Akins also noted that renewables continue to expand in utility portfolios, but since their power is “intermittent,” they must be backed up by some sort of central station generation, such as coal, natural gas or nuclear.

Finally, Akins said the continued improvement in the economy provides hope for utilities in the near- and longer-term future.

“The overall economy is starting to improve and all three of our load sectors were up — commercial, industrial and residential,” Akins noted. “And when you look at oil and gas, we cover a large portion of the shale gas activity in this country, and even though (oil and gas) rig counts may be going down, the overall usage of electricity is going up in those regions.”

A Wellness Journey tribute: Doug Callihan

Doug Callihan, shown in a 2013 photo holding an AEP hard hat signed by many supporters and well-wishers from across the AEP System.

AEP cares about the safety, health and well-being of its employees. All employees and retirees are invited to share their stories about the changes they are making to live healthier lives. This “Wellness Journey” is in tribute to Doug Callihan, who passed away in June after a lengthy battle with cancer.

Douglas C. Callihan, 47, principal construction contracts specialist in Construction Technology, passed away June 19, 2015, after a courageous four-year battle with cancer. A native of Cambridge, Ohio, he was employed by AEP for eight years.

Doug was a car enthusiast who loved working on and restoring his 1968 Chevrolet Corvette with the help of his friends and with his son, Matthew. He is survived by his wife, Karla, and his children, Matthew, Levi and Kaylie. He started running and lifting weights shortly after joining AEP and participating in several weight-loss challenges at his workplace.

In December 2013, he was featured in a Wellness Journey article that described his struggle with cancer that began October 12, 2011, and that included surgeries, a seizure while running, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. In the article, Doug expressed appreciation to the leadership in the AEP Projects, Controls & Construction organization “who made it possible for me to improve my quality of life even after a major illness.”

“Some people say that they are dying of cancer, but not Doug. Instead, he chose to live with cancer and embrace life. He continued to work full time, rebuilt two Corvettes, ran 10-plus miles a week and cherished time with his family,” said Chris Beam, vice president – Projects, Controls & Construction.

Doug Callihan at the wheel of his restored 1968 Chevrolet Corvette.

“Doug was driven at everything he did,” said Tom Householder, managing director – Labor Relations. “His work ethic and commitment were at the highest level. When Doug was told he had cancer, he attacked it rather than letting the cancer attack him. He continued to work during his treatments and he also worked out throughout his treatments. He inspired others with his courage and his perseverance. He’s no doubt the toughest person I’ve ever known. His family thanks all who provided Doug encouragement and support during his battle with cancer.”

“We often find ourselves complaining about having a rough day, but our rough days are nothing compared to Doug’s,” said Brian Myers, Construction Technology manager. “Every day was a struggle — dealing with doctors, taking medication that he knew was going to make him sick — but he didn’t complain and he never gave up hope. Doug was and continues to be an inspiration to those of us who knew him.”

Tory High, the coordinator of the fitness center at 1 Riverside Plaza, where Doug was a regular, was proud to recognize Doug Callihan as the Fitness Center Member of the Month for July, “for his unwavering optimism, the fight in him that beamed from his eyes, and his encouragement of others, even as he faced some of his weariest days. We saw Doug reach new strength levels in the Fitness Center just two days after undergoing chemotherapy treatment,” he said. “He never lost his drive.”

Doug expressed his attitude as, “Be a fighter. Don’t give up. I determined that I came into this world kicking and screaming, and I would go out the same way.”

The Callihan family expressed their heartfelt thanks to those who sent flowers, cards, gifts of food and condolences to honor Doug’s memory, and to those who called, visited and attended calling hours and funeral services. “Your kindness and thoughtfulness shown during such a sorrowful time will not be forgotten,” a note from the family read.

Do you have a wellness journey you’d like to share? Your story can be about weight loss, overcoming an illness, maintaining good health habits or some other health-related topic. Just send an email to dpwaitkus@aep.com.

 

AEP Foundation provides 100 percent match to employee Nepal relief donations

(Story by Jennah Nelson)

After the 7.8 magnitude earthquake rocked Nepal just a few shorts months ago, employees rallied together to contribute over $16,000 to the AEP Emergency Disaster Relief Fund of The Salvation Army.

The AEP Foundation will make a special donation to The Salvation Army by providing a 100 percent match, bringing the total to $32,066. The match will help extend support to families impacted by the April 25 event that left thousands dead, many more missing, and countless communities in ruin.

Donations will be administered by The Salvation Army and split equally among the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army and UNICEF for ongoing relief efforts.

“AEP employees are always quick to lend a helping hand in a crisis and the events in Nepal are no different,” said Nick Akins, AEP chairman, president and chief executive officer. “By providing this match through the AEP Foundation, employee donations will now go even further in aiding relief efforts for this terrible disaster. Our thoughts and prayers are with those who were, and continue to be, impacted by this devastation.”

The AEP Emergency Disaster Relief Fund was established through The Salvation Army to help employees when disasters strike.

The AEP Foundation is funded by American Electric Power and its utility operating units. The Foundation provides a permanent, ongoing resource for charitable initiatives involving higher dollar values and multi-year commitments in the communities served by AEP and initiatives outside of AEP’s 11-state service area.

AEP Texas crew receives President’s Award for courageous acts

Victoria line crew members accept the President’s Award. Pictured are (L to R): Line Mechanic Albert Rodriguez; Line Mechanic Julian Sosa; Russell Coleman, Victoria SDS; Line Crew Leader Todd Sneed; Wade Smith, AEP Texas president and chief operating officer; Line Mechanic Jeremy Voigt; and Elgin Janssen, Victoria community affairs manager.

(Story by Omar Lopez)

To hear Victoria, Texas, resident Sherry Holm tell the story, she thought she was dead.

Holm, 64, was driving in the right lane of Loop 463 in Victoria.  An industrial dump truck driving beside her in the left lane turned right. Holm veered off the road to avoid colliding with the truck, but she hit the truck head on.

“I hit the fuel tank. My air bag did not deploy. I took the full brunt of the impact in the face. I thought, ‘I’m not going to make this.’ I thought I was going to die,” Holm said.

Meanwhile, down the road, Line Mechanic Julian Sosa hovered more than 30 feet in the air in his bucket when he heard the crash. He turned and waved to the rest of his crew to investigate.

“When I realized that I was not dead, because I thought I would be, the next thing I knew there were men around me, helping me, calming me, getting me out of the car” Holm  said.

Those men were AEP Texas employees. Because of their heroic acts the day of the accident last December, Victoria Line Mechanic Albert Rodriguez; Line Crew Leader Todd Sneed; Line Mechanic Jeremy Voigt; and Sosa were awarded the President’s Award by Wade Smith, AEP Texas president and chief operating officer.

“I was up in the bucket when I heard some screeching tires,” Sosa said. “I waved as soon as I heard the noise. The guys started looking around for the noise, too. Albert and Todd took off.  They sprinted down the road while I came down.”

When Sosa came upon the accident, Rodriguez and Sneed were trying to help Holm out of the vehicle. Locked doors and fuel pouring from the truck created a dangerous, if not deadly, scene.

“I remember that the men were pulling the doors,” Holm said. “One was pulling on the driver’s side door that would not open and the other was standing on the passenger door. I remember telling them that I just wanted to sit there for a second.”

Sneed said he could see and smell the leaking diesel fuel. He and the rest of the crew insisted that she exit the vehicle.

“I just remember that there was a man walking with me and one walking in front of me, guiding me to a place,” she said. “They were so sweet and so nice. I remember how calm they were, and how it calmed me. I was terrified and they were so calming to me.”

The crew brought her a freezable gel pack and grabbed a folding chair for her. More people arrived on the scene.

“It was weird how everything just worked out,” Sosa said. “There were probably around 10 people around, people who stopped on the highway, including a nurse. She took over with the victim and we took off back to the service center.”

During the rescue, Holm asked the crew if they knew Elgin Janssen, the Victoria community affairs manager. She and Janssen often crossed paths through her work at the Victoria Economic Development Center. One week after the accident, Holm and Janssen saw one another at a meeting. Janssen said he noticed her deeply colored, fresh bruises about her eyes and forehead. It was then that Janssen learned that the AEP Texas linemen were responsible for her rescue.

Sneed and the crew returned to the service center that day without much thought about the accident. He said they did not talk about it until the next Monday.

“We weren’t trying to get our names in the paper or anything,” Sneed said. “You don’t really know how you are going to react. It was just a normal day.”

But not for Holm.

She said the accident, for her, was life-changing. She has since retired and she said she owes her life to the crew.

“Let me tell you, your men at AEP Texas pulled me out of there. They saved my life.”

Social engineering through the Internet

(Story by Pamela Busby)

Social engineering refers to the methods attackers use to manipulate people into sharing sensitive information, or taking an action, such as downloading a file. Sometimes a social engineer is able to rely solely on information posted online or will sometimes interact with the victim to persuade the victim to share details or perform an action.

Oversharing Online

Information posted online can seem harmless, until you think about how a social engineer could use the same information. By gathering multiple pieces of information from various sources, a cyber criminal could have enough facts about you to craft a very convincing social engineering scam. Think about how these seemingly innocuous details might be valuable to the cyber criminal:

  • Posting a picture of your pet might give away your pet’s name, or posting a photo of your car would identify its color. Pet’s name and car color are common security questions.
  • Answering a “meme” can give away personally identifiable information (PII) such as your date of birth or other sensitive information, including answers to security questions.

Be careful about how much information you post and think about how the various pieces might be combined for use by a cyber criminal.

Persuasion Scams

The following three common types of persuasion methods highlight different ways social engineers target victims through the Internet.

Tech Support Call Scams

In Tech Support Call Scams, the scammer, claiming to work for a well-known software or technology company, cold calls victims in an attempt to convince the victim that their computer is at risk of attack, attacking another computer, or is infected with malware, and that only the caller can remediate the problem. In convincing the victim, the scammer often persuades the victim to provide remote access to the victim’s computer. The scammer can then install malware or access sensitive information. In some variations, the scammer persuades the victim to pay for unnecessary or fictitious antivirus software or software updates.

Romance Scams

In Romance Scams, the malicious actors create fake profiles on dating websites and establish relationships with other site members. Once a sense of trust is established, the scammer fabricates an emergency and asks the victim for financial assistance. The scammer generally claims they will repay the victim as soon as the crisis is over, however, if the victim sends money, the scammer will prolong the scam, sometimes stealing thousands of dollars from the victim.

Traveler Scams

In this scenario, also known as the “Grandparent Scam,” malicious actors use information posted on social media websites by a traveling family member to trick other family members into sending money overseas. Often the scam targets the elderly, who are less likely to realize the information was originally posted online. The scammer will monitor social media websites for people traveling overseas, and then contact the family members, through the Internet or via phone, with a crisis and requesting that money be sent immediately. The scammers rely on all the information users post online about themselves and their trips, in order to convince the family member that they know the traveler and are privy to personal details, and thus should be trusted.

Easy Tips to Protect Yourself from Social Engineering

  • Use discretion when posting personal information on social media. This information is a treasure-trove to scammers who will use it to feign trustworthiness.
  • Before posting any information, consider: What does this information say about me? How can this information be used against me? Is this information, if combined with other information, harmful?
  • Remind friends and family members to exercise the same caution. Request that they remove revealing information about you.
  • Verify the identity of anyone who contacts you through different means – do not use the information they provide you.
  • Do not send money to people you do not know and trust.

For more information about how to stay safe in cyberspace, visit the Center for Internet Security at www.cisecurity.org

Indiana’s Headwaters Wind Farm dedicated

The Headwaters Wind Farm’s 100 turbines have a capacity of 200 megawatts and are expected to generate more than 600,000 megawatt hours of electricity annually – enough to power more than 50,000 homes.

(Story by Tracy Warner)

Community leaders and elected officeholders joined officials from EDP Renewables and Indiana Michigan Power Company (I&M) recently to formally dedicate the Headwaters Wind Farm.

Located in Winchester, Ind., The wind farm’s 100 turbines have a capacity of 200 megawatts and are expected to generate more than 600,000 megawatt hours of electricity annually – enough to power more than 50,000 homes. EDPR developed and operates the facility and has an agreement to sell the energy it generates to I&M. The facility went on line in late December.

“These wind turbines in Randolph County help boost the local economy, but they do much more,” said Paul Chodak, I&M president and chief operating officer. “At a time when our nation and many of our customers expect more energy to come from renewable sources, wind plays an important role. I&M now generates energy using the wind, water, nuclear power and coal – and will add solar later this year. A diverse generation pool helps I&M adapt to changes in the energy industry.”

“Headwaters Wind Farm has helped I&M achieve a notable milestone this year – more than half of our energy now comes from non-carbon-emitting sources,” Chodak added. “Indiana Michigan Power is proud to be Winchester’s hometown energy provider, and we appreciate the community’s role in generating renewable energy.”

 

AEP employee and retiree trail ride scheduled for August

(Story by Jeff Rennie)

AEP employees and retirees are invited to hit the trail.

The 18th annual AEP Employee and Retiree Trail Ride at AEP’s ReCreation Land Equine Activity Area will take place Aug. 8 and 9 at the site located about seven miles north of McConnelsville, Ohio, at 3400 East State Route 78. Participants must bring their own horse.

Approximately 30 miles of trails are available to riders. Many are well shaded and hilly with shallow creek crossings.

Approximately 30 miles of trails are available to riders. Many are well shaded and hilly with shallow creek crossings.

The ride kicks off at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 8. Riders should pack a trail lunch. A potluck dinner is scheduled Saturday night with meat for grilling provided by AEP.

Anne Lindimore, administrative assistant senior at the AEP Transmission Field Operations office, in Zanesville, coordinates the outing.

“Save the weekend of August 8 for a good time with great people,” said Lindimore. “Hope to see you here!”

Approximately 30 miles of trails are available to riders. Many are well shaded and hilly with shallow creek crossings, said Lindimore. The trails were developed and are maintained in a partnership between AEP and the Ohio Horseman’s Council. Guides are available on Saturday and Sunday.

Free camping, firewood and horse water are provided. No electricity is available at the campsite, but there are Port-O-Lets and the area has tie lines and picnic tables. The trailhead staging area can accommodate 100 horse trailers.

A permit is required to use the Equine Activity Area, which is open to the public, and is available free online at http://www.aep.com/environment/conservation/recland/permit.aspx.

Energy efficiency manager named to governor’s committee in Virginia

(Story by Matthew Thompson)

Jim Fawcett, manager of energy efficiency and alternative energy initiatives for Appalachian Power Company, has been appointed by Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe to his new Executive Committee on Energy Efficiency.

                              Jim Fawcett

The committee is comprised of 12 public and private sector stakeholders. The group aims to develop strategies and recommendations to achieve the goal of a 10 percent reduction in retail electricity consumption in Virginia by 2020.

“The energy sector is a key strategic growth area as we work to build a new Virginia economy, and improving energy efficiency is one of the real opportunities. I have put together this talented group of people to help ensure that we meet our goal in an accelerated time frame,“ McAuliffe stated in a news release.

Fawcett is one of only three utility representatives serving on the committee. He said he is honored to serve on the committee and hopes it will advance the energy efficiency issue in the state.

“The biggest importance is that it gives Appalachian Power a seat at the table to talk about the landscape of energy efficiency in Virginia going forward,” Fawcett said.

In Virginia, Appalachian offers energy saving initiatives for residential customers, including residential peak reduction and low income weatherization programs.

The residential peak reduction program provides a household the unique opportunity to save money and assist energy reliability for all customers. A device is installed near the outside central air conditioning unit at the home and during a limited number of peak demand periods, Appalachian will activate this device to adjust the air conditioner’s compressor to run at 50 percent cycling.

The low income weatherization program provides products and services to residential customers in need of help in reducing home energy bills and improving comfort. To qualify for the program, a household must have a total annual household income at or below 60 percent of the state median income.

Serving on an energy efficiency committee put together by a governor is a first for Fawcett. Although he works with different states on various initiatives, Fawcett said he’s excited to work with a group that reports directly to state leaders. He’s hopeful Appalachian customers in Virginia will benefit from the committee’s decisions.

“We always have to look at it from what’s in the best interest for our customers,” Fawcett said. “There has to be a certain balance there. The programs we run, our customers pay for. We want to make sure it’s always in their best interest and that its cost effective.”

The Executive Committee will be overseen by Secretary of Commerce and Trade Maurice Jones and will be staffed by the Energy Division of the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals, and Energy.

Fawcett is based at the Appalachian headquarters in Charleston, W.Va. He plans to travel to Richmond to attend meetings. The committee plans to meet on a monthly basis, with occasional conference calls to discuss updates.

U.S. Supreme Court decision doesn’t alter AEP’s compliance plan

(Story by Rachel Hammer)

AEP is pleased that Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision recognizes that costs are an important factor in determining whether to regulate hazardous air pollutant (HAP) emissions from power plants. However, Monday’s decision does not relieve power plant owners from continuing activities necessary to comply with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Mercury & Air Toxics Standards (MATS) rule.

The United States Supreme Court building.

In a 5-to-4 decision, the Court said EPA must take into account industry costs when deciding whether to regulate the power sector under Sect. 112 of the Clean Air Act. The Supreme Court remanded the matter to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to determine how to proceed. Meanwhile, MATS remains in effect.

Yesterday’s decision underscores that the Supreme Court expects the EPA to implement the Clean Air Act as written, not according to its own policy preferences.

EPA adopted MATS in 2012 and it became effective in April. The rules address emissions of HAPs including mercury and other metals, acid gases, organics and dioxin/furans. The Clean Air Act requires compliance with such rules within three years, unless an extension is issued by the state environmental regulators.

The company obtained compliance extensions for a number of units in order to complete transmission upgrades, equipment retrofits and re-fueling projects. Several of those extensions expired May 31. AEP will continue to operate its generating units to maintain compliance while the program is in effect.

A previous proposal to address these emissions was known as the Clean Air Mercury Rule (CAMR), which was vacated and sent back to EPA in 2008 by the D.C. Circuit Court. The 2012 rule has also been called the HAPs rule or Utility MACT (maximum available control technology) rule. Mercury, the primary HAP of concern, can be well-controlled using the same equipment that reduces sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions from our coal-fired units. Operation of these controls is also required to meet our obligations under the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule and Regional Haze requirements at certain plants.

 

Kentucky Power remembers Big Sandy Power Plant as transition to natural gas begins

Big Sandy Unit 2 is among units at nine American Electric Power coal-fired power plants to stop producing electricity this year to comply with new environmental regulations. Unit 1 will be converted to run on natural gas.

(Story by Allison Barker)

LOUISA, Ky. – May 13, 2015, is a day Johnny Adkins won’t soon forget. It was his last shift as an operator on Unit 2 at the Big Sandy Power Plant.

“I was playing ‘The Dance’ by Garth Brooks because it was me and ol’ girl making our last dance,” Adkins said. “An hour and a half after I left her that day, she was tired of dancing and hasn’t danced since. We tried to hold on until the end of May so we could run the coal out of the bunkers but she couldn’t hold on. She was done.”

Big Sandy Unit 2 is among units at nine American Electric Power coal-fired power plants to stop producing electricity this year to comply with new environmental regulations. Most officially retired May 31. Together, the coal units in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia generated 5,588 megawatts (MW). While many of those plants will close completely, Big Sandy will remain open, and Unit 1 will be converted to run on natural gas.

Honoring the closure of Big Sandy Unit 2 and hailing the conversion of Unit 1 was the reason for a celebration at the Eastern Kentucky plant in June.

“I have mixed emotions,” said a teary-eyed Kutrina May, who has worked in the plant’s storeroom for 33 years. “It’s sad to see all of this stop. We can continue on with the gas but it’s just not going to be the same. All these people are leaving. I don’t do well with goodbyes. It’s mixed emotions because I loved working here. I’ll get to stay so that’s a good thing but it will be different.”

Leonard Compton spent 33 years at Big Sandy before retiring in 1995 as a senior control technician, and was happy to be back for the celebration.

“It’s heartbreaking to know that Unit 2 is closing,” said Compton, 82. “I had a good life working here, a blessed life.”

Big Sandy has a long history of serving the needs of Eastern Kentucky. When Big Sandy’s 260-MW Unit 1 went online in 1963, its cooling tower was the first natural-draft cooling tower in the Western Hemisphere. Once it is converted to burn natural gas, Unit 1 will have a generation capacity of approximately 268 MW.

Unit 2, which went online in 1969, was the first in a series of five 800-MW units installed on the AEP System in a four-year period. Over the years, Big Sandy has not only produced low-cost electricity for the region, it also has contributed greatly to the local payroll. In 2013, both units together accounted for $9.2 million in annual payroll and $1.4 million in payroll taxes, plus millions more in property taxes.

Greg Pauley, Kentucky Power president and chief operating officer, recalled the Kentucky Public Service Commission questioned the need for an 800-MW unit.

“They challenged us as to why we needed a unit that could generate that much power,” Pauley said. “Well, we’ve shown why, and our employees have done a fantastic job over the years. Big Sandy was a significant accomplishment for Kentucky Power and AEP.”

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Jeff LaFleur, vice president of generating assets APCO/KY, said that Big Sandy employees have always been driven by high performance.

“Big Sandy, and especially Big Sandy Unit 2, has always been one the highest performing 800-MW units AEP had,” LaFleur said. “It’s a shame. It’s the best 800 unit we got and we had to shut it down. But the positive from all this is I think we will get improvement in the whole fleet. Some of these folks are moving on to other plants. I’m happy to have them and the other plants are happy to get them. It’s a huge advantage given our aging demographics. It’s allowed us to get a little bit ahead of the demographics. They’re trained people.”

Dan Lee, senior vice president, Fossil and Hydro Generation, echoed LaFleur’s comments.

“It’s a huge opportunity for the plants that are getting them. And they will add to the culture in those plants,” Lee said.

Pat Conley, 54, is one employee who is making the transition to the John E. Amos Power Plant in West Virginia, about an hour away from his home in eastern Kentucky.

“I hate to see Unit 2 shut down but that’s just the way the ball bounces,” said Conley, a coal yard operator with 27 years at Big Sandy. “I’m pretty excited about going to Amos. The rumor is they actually have days off up there and you can have them off. The last several years here we pretty much have worked seven days a week. That gets old. Heck, if I love it up there, I may work past 62 if my health holds out.”

Through the years, Big Sandy employees like Conley have taken great pride in providing much-needed electricity to the region, while protecting air and water quality, recycling materials and maintaining an exemplary record of public and work safety. The plant and its employees have been a part of the Louisa and Eastern Kentucky community for more than 50 years, and will continue to be active supporters well into the future, said Big Sandy Plant Manager Aaron Sink.

“This day was about saying thank you and honoring the employees who served this company from 1969 to 2015,” Sink said. “If you let it, it’s a sad occasion. You have to acknowledge that. But to turn it into a positive, we must cherish the memories and what Big Sandy has meant to the area over the years.

“We have provided low-cost electricity to the region. We have contributed to the local economy and we have provided employees who were not just employees, but members of the community and stewards of our company, our mission and what we stood for.”

Sink presented employees with a commemorative case knife or afghan emblazoned with the words “Big Sandy Unit 2 1969 to 2015,” as a keepsake. He challenged them to remember Big Sandy’s core values as they move on to other endeavors — safety, environmental, housekeeping and production.

“Carry on the traditions and values learned here,” he said.

While some Big Sandy employees are moving on to other job opportunities within the AEP family, others have taken jobs elsewhere or opted to retire. New retirees Greg Delong, 57, Tom Pettrey, 56, and Gary Setser, 59, see the closure of Unit 2 as a chance for adventure.

The trio, all avid outdoorsmen, is making plans to take up to six months to hike the Appalachian Trail come spring 2016, a 2,185-mile trek.

“We all like to hike and talked amongst ourselves and the three of us decided that’s what we wanted to do,” Delong said. “We got to talking and we’re leaving in April. We’ll start south in Georgia and hike north to Maine.”

The way Pettrey sees it, if you’re going to retire, you might as well do it right.

“We wanted to do something, one more good challenge,” he said. “We’ve all talked about it for years, but who has the time? Now we do.”

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