STATE IMPACT PENNSYLVANIA – FirstEnergy announced Wednesday its power generating subsidiary would move to de-activate the Bruce Mansfield Power Station, the largest coal-fired power plant in Pennsylvania.
In a release, the company said it would de-activate the Beaver County plant in June 2021. Until then, the plant will have normal operations. FirstEnergy Solutions, the subsidiary that runs Bruce Mansfield, will also de-activate the W.H. Sammis power plant in Stratton, Ohio in 2022, and two smaller generating units in Ohio.
“FES is closing the plants due to a market environment that fails to adequately compensate generators for the resiliency and fuel-security attributes that the plants provide,” the company said in its release.
The announcement follows a similar closure of three of the company’s nuclear power plants, and pleas to the Trump administration for help. In its release, the company said federal aid could still save the plants “depending on the timing of any federal policy action.”
The company has asked the Trump administration for a bailout, in which ratepayers would pay more for electricity from coal and nuclear plants, to keep its plants in operation. Though the administration says it’s thinking about a bailout, no plan has emerged. In January, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission rejected a similar Department of Energy proposal for coal and nuclear plants.
“As with nuclear, our fossil-fueled plants face the insurmountable challenge of a market that does not sufficiently value their contribution to the security and flexibility of our power system,” said Don Moul, president of FirstEnergy Solutions.
The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in March. In its filing, the company revealed that Bruce Mansfield lost $90 million in 2017 alone, and was projected to lose even more — $104 million — this year. It cited low-cost natural gas as a leading cause for the plant’s struggles.
Environmental groups warned against any move from the federal government to prop up the company’s coal fleet.
“Rather than throwing away tax dollars by bailing out a broken coal plant, the federal government must recommit to assisting workers and communities that are impacted by coal’s increasing obsolescence,” said Tom Schuster, senior campaign representative for Sierra Club in Pennsylvania.
PJM Interconnection, the mid-Atlantic grid that FirstEnergy’s plants feed will take 90 days to review the company’s plan. “We will conduct the full analysis required to determine if there would be any effects on the grid that require transmission upgrades,” said Jeff Shields, a spokesman for PJM Interconnection, adding that the grid had “adequate power supplies and healthy reserves in operation.”