FirstEnergy Corp announced Thursday that new environmental regulations released by the EPA have led the company to a decision to shut down six of its older, coal-fired power plants throughout Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland. Some 500 employees will be affected when the plants are officially retired on September 1st.
As the most economic of decisions, FirstEnergy decided that it would be more cost-effective to shut down the plants altogether than to get them up to compliance with the new environmental regulations announced last month. The new standards aim at reducing emissions of mercury and other toxic pollution, a trend that is expected to rollover to many more units throughout the Midwest and in the “coal belt” of Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia, according to a survey conducted by the Associated Press.
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Though there are a total of 17 coal-fired plants under FirstEnergy, the six to be shut down account for about 10 percent of the total electricity the company produces. Taking steps to clean up its power sources, FirstEnergy has said that once the closings are finished, nearly all of its power will come from low emissions sources.
"Make no mistake, these plants were operating well-beyond their intended lifespan for a reason: it has been cheap to be dirty," NRDC's Henry Henderson wrote on a Council website. "And utilities have taken advantage." He also noted that the company's investments in clean energy "will ultimately create more jobs in Ohio and the region."
Over 32 mostly coal-fired power plants in a dozen states will also be forced to shut down and an additional 36 could be closed as a result of the new federal air pollution regulations, according to an Associated Press survey last month.