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2 FirstEnergy Coal-Fired Plants To Close Next Week

(Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

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MONONGAHELA, Pa. (AP) – FirstEnergy says it will close two coal-fired power plants in southwestern Pennsylvania as scheduled next week with no expectations that they will be sold or reopened under stricter environmental regulations.

“Those plants are losing money today and will lose money in the future. Our plans are not to run those units again,” company president James Lash told state lawmakers at a Thursday hearing.

Lash said no potential buyers have come forward for the 370-megawatt Mitchell Power Station in Washington County or the 1,710-megawqatt Hatfield’s Ferry Power Station in Greene County. He said the company has made job offers within its system to 140 of 175 union workers affected.

Members of the House Consumer Affairs Committee are considering testimony on the effects of the closures on the region’s electric grid.

Valley Forge-based PJM Interconnection, which distributes electricity to Pennsylvania and 12 other states, said last month it saw “no system reliability problems” stemming from the planned Oct. 9 deactivation of the plants.

Pamela Witmer, a member of the state Public Utility Commission, testified that although FirstEnergy gave the 90 days required to review the reliability of service, she still worried that PJM might not have had enough time to assess the effects of losing 2,000 megawatts of power, which help supply 1.5 million Pennsylvania homes each year.

Michael Kormos, PJM executive first vice president of operations, said new natural gas plants in the large grid will be able to compensate for the loss of any coal-fired plants.

“We are very confident these units can retire,” Kormos said

The company has cited weak demand, low electricity prices and the costs of complying with environmental regulations for the decision to close the plants.

Lash said electricity prices have dropped 10 percent from summer to fall and the cost of natural gas remains at historic low levels because of the abundance of gas from supplies, such as the Marcellus shale reserves. He said it would take $270 million to bring the plants into compliance with environmental regulations.

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(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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