Coal Industry Veteran & Senate Hopeful Smith Reacts to GenOn Closings

A young Smith, coal miner. Screenshot from a Smith TV ad

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.”

The Plants

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.

6 Responses

  1. “Show me where a man gets his cornpone, and I’ll tell you how he votes” quote from Petroleum V. Nasby, satirist, lecturer and contemporary of Mark Twain. So the people in the coal industry…making record profits…want the EPA to quit monitoring them, air pollution, mountain-top removal mining and the concurrent air and water pollution are just a part of making a profit. Mr. Smith, having made millions in the coal industry, now, out of purely altruistic concerns, wants to go to Washington and throttle the EPA. Quid Pro Quo?……..and the comment about “Mr. Obama wants us to die with Obamacare”…..Brother, you are practically choking on your own venom. I’d suggest doing a little reading and research before befouling your ears with talk radio and letting Rush Limbaugh do your thinking for you. If Rush truly believed in what he was spewing, he would run for office and save us all, wouldn’t he?

  2. I can’t wait to see what the next environmental/health “straw man” will be after these plants and their jobs are gone and people’s average health remains the same. I can’t wait to see what everyone will be forced to live under when these people discover cosmic rays and the effect they have on cancer and our DNA.

  3. The Mansfield Tea party invites you to a Townhall Meeting in Mansfield PA 16933 on April 11th. We have invited Sam Rohrer for that too. As of yet we have not heard back from those invited.

  4. Obama wants us to die anyway under obamacare so leave the coal companies alone and his welfare parasites can get our "stuff" when Sebelius and her death panel deny us care anyway! says:

    Obama wants us to die anyway under obamacare so leave the coal companies alone and his welfare parasites can get our “stuff” when Sebelius and her death panel deny us care anyway!

  5. So basically these coal companies are upset that the public and the government is no longer subsidizing their pollution and inefficiency?

    There is a cost associated with that pollution and it’s time to internalize those costs. The free ride needs to end and I think everyone who has ever complained about the “welfare queens” and the percentage of Americans who don’t pay any taxes should certainly get behind ending the corporate welfare of ignoring those external costs.

    The thing that really gets me is that they would never be in this situation if they had been responsible citizens and spent the last 50-60 years improving their technology and processes instead of milking their margins at the expense of Pennsylvania taxpayers and their health.

  6. Although I fear pollution and how it will effect most of us with COPD; I have been diagnosed with it, I fear the hold other countries have on us because of our need for gas, oil, etc, more. Our country needs to rely on itself, not others. As for the Sierra Club, and owners who only care more about dollars than my country, we must decided what is best for this great nation; not through money but through loyalty to better the USA.

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