The Press Newspaper

Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

The Press Newspaper

The Press Newspaper

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FirstEnergy management estimates 80 jobs will be terminated at the Bay Shore Plant in Oregon when three coal-burning units are shut down later this year while about 70 employees working at the plant’s fluidized bed boiler unit, which burns petroleum coke from a nearby oil refinery, won’t be affected by the closings.

The company announced last week its generation subsidiaries will retire six coal-fired plants in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Maryland by Sept. 1, citing new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Mercury and Air Toxics standards (MATS) and other regulations.

Besides the Bay Shore units, plants in Ohio being closed are located in Eastlake, Ashtabula, and Cleveland as well as the Armstrong Power Station in Adrian, Pa. and the R. Paul Smith Power Station in Williamsport, Md.

In all, the total capacity of the plants being closed is about 2,689 megawatts, according to FirstEnergy. Recently, the plants were used primarily as peaking or intermediate facilities and generated about 10 percent of the power on average produced by the company over the past three years.

Mark Durbin, a FirstEnergy spokesman, said the company plans to have the plants closed no later than Sept. 1 and some may be closed by this summer.

A total of about 529 workers will be directly affected but that number could drop as some could be considered for open positions at other FirstEnergy facilities and eligible employees take advantage of a retirement buy-out being offered to those 55 and older.

“We recently completed a comprehensive review of our coal-fired generating plants and determined that additional investments to implement MATS and other environmental rules would make these older plants even less likely to be dispatched under market rules. As a result, it was necessary to retire the plants rather than continue operations,” said James. H. Lash, FirstEnergy generation and chief nuclear officer.

He said the company is completing MATS compliance plans for its remaining coal-fired plants, adding FirstEnergy and subsidiaries have invested more than $10 billion in environmental protection measures since the Clean Air Act was enacted in 1970.

The plant closings are subject to review for what is called reliability impacts by PJM Interconnection, the regional transmission organization that controls areas they are located.

The company plans to announce fourth quarter and full-year 2011 financial results on Feb. 28.

Sandy Bihn, a member of Lake Erie Waterkeeper, Inc., said there could be economic and environmental benefits to the region as the Bay Shore plant scales back its coal operations, resulting in much less  water being discharged by the plant, which sits on the Maumee Bay.

A study by Waterkeeper, Sierra Club, and the Natural Resources Defense Council estimates the warmed water translates into fish kills that cost the area’s economy as much as $30 million annually.

Citing the company’s figures it reports to the Ohio EPA, she said the plant uses about 750 million gallons of water a day in its operations. With the closing of the coal units, that could be reduced to about 140-150 million gallons a day.

The groups pushed for the use of cooling towers at coal plants.

Bihn also said she was skeptical the new MATS and environmental regulations were primarily behind the decision to close the coal plants, noting competition from more efficient natural gas-powered electric plants has influenced the market.

Oregon City Administrator Mike Beazley said the announcement by FirstEnergy wasn’t unexpected and he expects the city’s economy to continue its recovery despite the loss of jobs.

“Our main concern is with the workers and their families,” he said.