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FirstEnergy Closing Coal Plants, But Obama Not to Blame

http://www.energymanagertoday.com/firstenergy-aims-to-scuttle-ohio-efficiency-rules-090177/Two Pennsylvania coal-fired power plants would have to close regardless of new environmental regulations, owner FirstEnergy said.

The Hatfield’s Ferry and Mitchell plants, whose combined 2,080 MW equals about 10 percent of FirstEnergy’s generating capacity, are loss-makers because of historically low electricity market prices, abundant low-cost natural gas and dysfunction in the unregulated power market, president James Lash said at a state senate committee hearing. Not only has residential demand been flat since 2007, but commercial deliveries dropped 6 percent and industrial deliveries are down 8 percent, the (Uniontown, Pa.) Herald-Standard reports.

Lash said it would cost $270 million for the plants to comply with the federal Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), and on top of that they would have to comply with regulations on fly ash, cooling water intake rules, wastewater controls, National Ambient Air Quality Standards, new source performance standards, the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, and of course carbon standards for existing plants, which President Obama has pledged to issue by June.

But it appears not all of the company’s environmental compliance costs are warranted: last year, the Plain Dealer reported that the utility spent millions of dollars more than it should have to comply with Ohio’s renewable-energy mandates, and passed the cost on to consumers. The newspaper also reports that this spring, the utility operated a behind-the-scenes push in its home state of Ohio, to get rid of state energy efficiency standards that are denting its profits.

The company is the 8th-biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in the US, with over 53 million metric tons CO2e in 2011, or 0.79 percent of all US GHG emissions, according to the Greenhouse 100 index, a ranking by the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

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