CLEARFIELD – Thursday morning, the Clearfield County Commissioners and Rick Sollman, of U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson’s district office, met with GenOn Energy Inc. officials Stephen S. Davies, the vice president of Western PJM Assessment and Murray Kohan, the general manager of the Shawville Generating Station concerning this week’s announcement that the Shawville station will be deactivated in April of 2015.
Davies updated the commissioners and Sollman regarding the issues that led to the decision, including the cost of upgrades to bring the plant into Environmental Protection Agency compliance, which would likely exceed $500 million. In addition, there was discussion about the feasibility of converting the plant from coal to gas, according to correspondence received by Commissioner Mark B. McCracken via e-mail.
Davies said that option was considered; however, the costs to convert the Shawville station, which is almost 60 years old, would be prohibitive. He told the commissioners that it would be more feasible and efficient to build a new gas-fired plant rather than converting one that was built in the 1950’s. Davies reported that GenOn currently doesn’t have any plans to construct a gas-fired plant in Pennsylvania.
McCracken said that other discussions included how the existing employees were informed of the decision, what local coal companies will be impacted, what will happen over the next three years while the plant remains in operation and what will happen to the facility once it is deactivated. McCracken said that Sollman will be reporting back to Thompson.
According to McCracken, Commissioner Joan Robinson-McMillen will present a report to Senator Pat Toomey’s staff, while he (McCracken) will be providing a report to Senator Robert Casey’s staff. Davies offered to attend a future commissioners meeting to provide a report to the public. This meeting will be scheduled in the coming weeks, McCracken said.
GenOn, a Houston-based company, announced Wednesday its intentions of deactivating five coal-fired power plants located in Pennsylvania as well as two plants based in Ohio and another in New Jersey. The Pennsylvania-based plants include: Shawville, Portland, Titus, New Castle and Elrama.
In a press release, GenOn officials stated it expected to deactivate 3,140 megawatts of electricity after forecasting insufficient returns on investments that would make it necessary to comply with environmental regulations. The Shawville plant generates 597 megawatts of power.
The other affected Pennsylvania plants generated the following: Elrama, Washington County, 460 megawatts; Portland, Northampton County, 401 megawatts; New Castle, Lawrence County, 330 megawatts; and Titus, Berks County, 243 megawatts of power, according to a GenOn press release.
“The deactivation is being driven by the costs of complying with upcoming environmental regulations, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards,” said State Rep. Camille “Bud” George, D-74 of Houtzdale, in a press release yesterday.
According to a GenOn news release, “The coal-fired units at Shawville, which is leased, will be placed in long-term protective layup. The required lease payments will continue to be made and the assets will be maintained in accordance with the lease.”
George said a GenOn official described Shawville’s situation as a “glide path” toward the April 2015 deactivation. George said the GenOn official said the plant probably will be operated “pretty much as is” although there “might be some ups and downs” before the plant is deactivated in 37 months.
“The Shawville plant has provided jobs and power – almost 600 megawatts annually to the Pennsylvania-New Jersey-Maryland power grid – for more than 55 years,” George said. “The deactivation will affect plant and coal jobs, as well as supporting industries, throughout the region.”
According to the GenOn official, Shawville has about 80 employees at the Bradford Township plant and contributes roughly $225,000 annually in local taxes.
“From a deregulation scheme that gave more than $12 billion in ratepayers’ money to utilities to run off and buy power plants in Montana or Brazil to knee-jerk reactions to coal as an energy resource, no one can tell me that we don’t have the know-how and money to make Shawville a state-of-the-art plant,” George said.
McCracken made his initial statement to members of the media Wednesday afternoon.
“This is devastating news for Clearfield County that impacts not only the 80-plus workers at the Shawville plant, but also has a huge ripple effect that will have a negative impact on many local and regional businesses,” he said.
“The Shawville plant alone has an annual impact on the regional economy of several $100 million per year. While the GenOn announcement was bad news, we are getting our federal officials involved in the hopes that a solution can be found before 2015 to keep the plant in operation.”
The Elrama and Niles, OH plants are expected to deactivate the soonest, June 2012. The Avon Lake, OH, New Castle and Titus plants will shut down in April 2015 along with the Shawville plant, while the Glen Gardner, NJ and Portland plants will close in May and January of 2015, respectively.