Governor attends Rain Day; meets with local lawmakers on plant closings

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WAYNESBURG – Gov. Tom Corbett made an unannounced visit to Waynesburg Monday to take in the sights and sounds of the annual Rain Day celebration.


Corbett met with members of the Greene County Republican Committee at a closed meeting Monday morning at Hot Rods Restaurant before taking a stroll around town.


He also met with state Rep. Pam Snyder, D-Waynesburg, and state Sen. Tim Solobay, D-Canonsburg, to discuss the proposed closings of FirstEnergy Corp.’s Hatfield’s Ferry Power Station in Monongahela Township, Greene County, and its Mitchell Power Station in Union Township, Washington County.


Solobay said he and Snyder had heard during the weekend that Corbett might attend Rain Day and had asked to meet with him to discuss the closing of the power plants, a request the governor had granted.


“We’re reaching out to everyone we can to get help to prevent the closings of these plants,” Snyder said.


During the meeting, which lasted about 40 minutes, Corbett expressed concerns about the plant closings and said he would do what he can to help, Snyder said.


He indicated he would try to contact FirstEnergy, PJM Interconnect, which is the regional grid operator that must approve the closings, and the state’s federal delegation regarding the matter, she said.


“The governor is aware and concerned about the plant closings and will do everything he can to help the workers,” said Kelli Roberts, a spokeswoman for the governor’s office, in an email.


The governor has already deployed the Rapid Response team from the Department of Labor and Industry which is scheduled to meet with local officials, the employers and the unions in the next couple weeks, she said. The team will then be on hand to provide assistance and counseling as needed to all impacted workers, she said.


FirstEnergy announced the closings of the two coal-fired power plants earlier this month, citing the high costs of bringing the plants into compliance with environmental regulations and the low market prices for electricity. The closings, scheduled for October, will affect 380 employees.


The local lawmakers have argued the plants should remain open not only to preserve the jobs but also to ensure the reliability of the electrical grid.


Ratepayers have footed the bill for bringing Hatfield’s Ferry into compliance with air-quality regulations when FirstEnergy’s predecessor, Allegheny Power, spent $650 million four years ago to install scrubbers at the plant, Snyder said.


The company has said, however, that more emission controls would be needed to bring the plant into compliance with newer regulations.


The two lawmakers also have argued coal must remain an integral part of this nation’s energy policy, especially given the volatile price of natural gas on which the utility industry is increasing its reliance to generate electrical power.


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