Bruce Mansfield coal plant to close 19 months early, officials say
- Aug 12, 2019 4:20 pm GMT
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Aug. 10--SHIPPINGPORT -- Pennsylvania's largest coal-fired power plant is set to close nearly two years earlier than expected.
FirstEnergy Solutions Corp. announced plans to deactivate and close Shippingport's Bruce Mansfield plant in November, citing "a lack of economic viability" in a Friday statement.
Company officials previously planned to shutter the power plant's Unit 3 in June 2021; Units 1 and 2 were deactivated in February after a fire that damaged plant equipment.
Owners have long struggled to compete with natural gas and renewables in the region, prompting industry supporters including President Donald Trump to champion FirstEnergy. Two years ago, the U.S. Department of Energy Department proposed an ultimately-rejected plan to pay coal generators more for stockpiling fuel on site.
FirstEnergy Solutions filed for bankruptcy in 2018, cratered by its unprofitable nuclear and coal power plants. The company's reorganization plan is scheduled to be heard by a bankruptcy judge this month.
Bruce Mansfield has been generating power in Beaver County since 1976. Company officials say the deactivation process will be complete by May 2020.
"The deactivation will be safely and responsibly conducted in accordance with relevant regulations and guidelines," officials said in a statement. "By November, the workforce will be reduced to a level required to complete deactivation activities. In all cases, the company will comply with its collective bargaining agreement, including severance as applicable, and have already initiated discussions with union leadership."
The company's Beaver Valley Nuclear Power Station is still slated to close in 2021 for financial reasons. Unless Pennsylvania lawmakers consider new nuclear subsidies -- similar to recent changes in Ohio -- a company spokesperson said it's likely the plant will close according to plan.
Beaver County could see a sizable economic hit with the closure of both plants. FirstEnergy is one of the county's largest taxpayers with millions in assessed property. It puts hundreds of high-paid union employees at risk, too. Last year, FirstEnergy Solutions employed about 250 workers at the Bruce Mansfield plant alone.
In response to the news, state Sen. Elder Vogel Jr., R-47, New Sewickley Township, implored lawmakers to assist displaced workers and help fill the expected economic void.
"The closure of what was once Pennsylvania's largest coal-fired electric generation facility will have a major negative impact not only in Shippingport, but throughout Beaver County," he said. "The loss of those jobs and the impact on those families is heartbreaking. As we work together as a community through this difficult time, my office stands ready to help those affected by this closure."
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