FirstEnergy closing 6 coal-fired power plants

January 26, 2012 - 3:05 PM

AKRON, Ohio (AP) — FirstEnergy Corp. said Thursday that new environmental regulations led to a decision to shut down six older, coal-fired power plants in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland, affecting more than 500 employees.

The plants, which are in Cleveland, Ashtabula, Oregon and Eastlake in Ohio, Adrian, Pa. and Williamsport, Md., will be retired by Sept. 1. They have generated about 10 percent of the electricity produced by FirstEnergy over the last three years, the company said.

"This decision is not in any way a reflection of the fine work done by the employees at the affected plants, but is related to the impact of new environmental rules," said James Lash, president unit. In a statement, he indicated that a review of the company's coal-fired plants determined it would not be cost-effective to get the older ones into compliance with environmental regulations the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced in December.

The new standards are designed to reduce emissions of mercury and other toxic pollution from coal- and oil-fired power plants. An Associated Press survey found that the changes were likely to bring the mothballing of dozens of units in the Midwest and in the coal belt — Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia.

The Obama administration was under court order to issue a new rule, after a court threw out an attempt by the Bush administration to exempt power plants from controls for toxic air pollution.

FirstEnergy said its decision would directly affect 529 employees. Some of them could end up transferring to other FirstEnergy facilities and work sites, while others could take advantage of a retirement benefit being offered to employees 55 years and older, the company said.

A message requesting comment from the Utility Workers Union of America in Cleveland was not immediately returned on Thursday.