CHICAGO - Prairie State Generating Co. has named Donald Gaston its new president and chief executive officer after a nationwide search.

"Mr. Gaston brings a unique combination of industry knowledge and a proven track record in effective power plant operations, owner relations and strategic planning," Marc Gerken, PSGC's chairman and interim CEO, said in a statement. The company's former leader resigned earlier this year.

Gaston most recently served as the director of Fossil Generation for the Public Service Enterprise Group, one of the 10 largest electric companies in the U.S. and New Jersey's oldest and largest publicly owned utility. Gaston will be responsible for the overall direction and leadership of the Prairie State Energy Campus and oversees coordination with the plant's ownership group.

The Washington County, Ill. campus includes a coal-fired plant that generates 1600 megawatts of electricity, and an adjacent mine to provide the coal. Eight public utilities in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, and Ohio issued $4.5 billion of debt to finance their ownership.

The plant has come under fire for construction delays and cost overruns that drove up the price for energy beyond what public utilities had expected to pay when they bought into the project.

American Municipal Power Inc. disclosed last year it had received a subpoena from the Securities and Exchange Commission tied to the project, according to city of Cleveland public documents obtained by an environmental group by Ohio Citizen Action.

The request was made just days before the disclosure in regulatory filings by Peabody Energy Corp. — the company that led efforts to develop the joint power agency-owned project — that it had received a subpoena from the SEC regarding the project's development.

The Paducah Power System in western Kentucky is investigating its fiscal obligations to Prairie State.

Ratepayers in Batavia, Ill., have taken several legal actions related to their high electric and sales tax rates related to the city's investment in Prairie State, including filing a lawsuit in mid-August.

Rating agencies have said even with the higher than expected costs, the project offers financial benefits over the long term as it provides a stable price and reliable source of energy. Bond investors remain protected by the sturdy protections afforded by the contracts, they have said.

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