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FirstEnergy closing six coal plants
Four of the plants, along Lake Erie, were used as auxiliaries

Kabir Bhatia
In The Region:
Four aging, northern Ohio, coal-fired power plants are slated to close this fall because they can’t meet new EPA air pollution standards.  WKSU's Kabir Bhatia has more on Thursday's announcement from Akron-based FirstEnergy...
FirstEnergy closing 6 coal plants

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FirstEnergy’s Eastlake, Ashtabula, and Lake Shore plants in Cleveland and older parts of the Bayshore plant near Toledo will close by September 1.

The facilities were primarily used as auxiliaries, and generated about 10 percent of FirstEnergy’s output over the last three years.

A survey by Environment Ohio shows that the state ranked second in mercury emissions from power plants in 2010. One-tenth of those emissions came from these four plants. 

FirstEnergy spokesman Mark Durbin says the company recently completed a massive upgrade at a plant near East Liverpool. And he says the new federal clean-air standards don’t give it time or make it cost-effective to refurbish the other plants. 

“We spent 1.8 billion dollars, over five years, to add scrubbers and other pollution control technology to this plant. Now [the] EPA is expecting just about every single coal-fired power plant to have to do some type of retrofit and they give us three years to do it. At the end of the day, we just made the determination that because of the way the rules were structured, we needed to do an announcement like we did.”

FirstEnergy is also closing a plant in Pennsylvania and one in Maryland, and says all the closings will cut more than 500 jobs. Ohio’s Republican Sen. Rob Portman says the EPA should have accounted for that when it wrote the new rules.

“They ought to have to go through a careful cost-benefit analysis, including looking at the impact on jobs, and then be required to choose the least burdensome alternative. By their own acknowledgement, this is going to result in huge job loss in Ohio and other states that depend on coal for electricity. In Ohio, as you know, it’s about 86 percent of our electricity comes from coal-fired plants.”

Last year, Portman introduced the Regulatory Accountability Act, which would have required the EPA to perform a cost-benefit analysis. The bill passed the House.

FirstEnergy plans to offer some employees transfers or retirement. And Ohio Environmental Council spokesman Nolan Moser says the jobs picture is not as dire as Senator Portman makes it out to be.

“Well, Senator Portman is wrong. Ohio’s clean-energy industry is the number-one growing industry in the state of Ohio. And it’s because energy companies are shutting down some of these older facilities and opening up newer, cleaner facilities. These cleaner facilities actually employ more people. In the long run, we’ve seen job growth that far outpaces any losses.”

The Environmental Council praised the closings, saying they will mean “less asthma, and less mercury emissions” for Ohioans. The oldest plant, Lake Shore in Cleveland, was built more than 100 years ago. 
Listener Comments:

I'm VERY happy to see this come into place.
Civilians surrounding these airborne toxic areas shouldn't have to suffer from chronic health conditions. Lake Erie marine life, air, water, and real estate values of the surrounding coal-fired areas are all 100 percent vulnerable to these destructive machines. After September, I'll be very interested to see where the 'technological transfer' will take us. I'm all for renewable energy, but am concerned with MASS energy STORAGE from large-scale wind and solar farms to power Ohio. Overall, I'm very happy to read this fine, established article!

Posted by: Michelle S (Ohio) on February 5, 2012 9:02AM
This was a great report. It's about time First Energy closes these plants. Ohio has been spewing airborne waste at it's neighbors to the east for years. Being second in the country for mercury emissions should be enough to justify closing these plants. I think you said they were used to satisfy demand during peak usage times.
We need to concentrate on using cleaner technology to minimize on the airborne toxins.
Hopefully the closures will encourage 1st Energy to build a wind mill farm in Lake Erie.

Posted by: Tim Murphy (Canton OH) on January 27, 2012 11:01AM
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