Coal Industry Veteran & Senate Hopeful Smith Reacts to GenOn Closings
Tom Smith founded a coal business 30 years ago. He grew and developed it into a mid-sized company, producing 100,000 tons of coal per month. And the Republican hopeful for U.S. Senate blames President Barack Obama’s energy policies for the news last week that GenOn, Energy Inc. is closing 5 plants in Pa.
“These latest plant closings that will directly cost hundreds of jobs and indirectly thousands more, are further evidence that President Obama favors the appeasement of his most liberal special interest allies over creating jobs in Pennsylvania and providing consumers with affordable energy,” he blasted. “Like the Keystone Pipeline decision, President Obama’s anti-growth agenda has continued to slow our recovery.”
“I built an energy business from scratch and created hundreds of jobs. I understand the importance of the energy sector in leading our economic recovery.”
Smith is running in the Republican primary to unseat freshman U.S. Senator Bob Casey,
President Obama has boasted of his record of environmental issues. His campaign website notes, “Rather than accept congressional Republicans’ arbitrary and rushed deadline to study the health, safety, and environmental consequences of the Keystone XL pipeline, the President rejected the project’s application.”
GenOn Energy Inc. administrators announced on February 29th their plans to deactivate 3,140 megawatts of power-generating capacity in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, according to the Tribune-Democrat, because “forecasted returns on investments necessary to comply with the environmental regulations are insufficient.”
By 2015, eight power plants, five of them coal plants in Pa., will close. Three of them are aged, decrepit coal-burning power plants located in Western Pennsylvania. The Post Gazette lists the coal-burning plants as Elrama in northern Washington County, Shawville in Clearfield County, and another near New Castle in Lawrence County.
Elrama is scheduled to close this June. The plant is 60 years old and generates 460-megawatts of power. Shawville’s 597-megawatt, 58-year old plant, as well as the plant in Lawrence County, which is 60 years old and produces 330-megawatts, have plans to close in April 2015. The western PA closings will result in the loss of 180 jobs, Steve Davies, a GenOn spokesman said.
In eastern PA, Titus power plant in Birdsboro and the Portland Generating Station in Upper Mount Bethel Township are scheduled to close by 2015.
The news of the closings came as the Houston-based power company released its 2011 earnings report. The closings were not entirely unexpected; several of the facilities were already slated for future closure.
On Oct. 31, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ruled that the 53-year old coal-fired Portland Generating Station would have to “lower its sulfur-dioxide emissions by 81 percent over a period of three years,” as well as meeting “stricter mercury standards” slashing mercury emissions “by 91 percent by 2015, along with its chromium and hydrochloric acid emissions,” reports the Express-Times.
Plant officials understood that the mercury regulations were the ones that would close the Portland Generating Station, so GenOn decided that it would be more cost-effective to shut the plant down rather than bringing it up to the new environmentally-friendly code.
GenOn’s chairman and CEO Edward Muller was quoted by the Express-Times, saying that “we will invest only if we are confident that the expected return will exceed our cost of capital.”
The Post-Gazette cites Harvard University researchers, led by Jonathan Levy, and their 2009 study which found that the total annual health costs, directly caused by the 2009 pollution emission levels at Elrama, New Castle, and Shawville were $836,000,000, “based on a pollution-to-health effects formula.”
The Sierra Club supports the plant closings, deeming it a “victory for clean air,” which will ultimately protect the people living in close quarters to the plants.