Buyer may exist for 2 closing Pa. power plants

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WAYNESBURG (AP) — A buyer may exist for two southwestern Pennsylvania coal-fired power plants that are scheduled to close, but a labor union leader complained that Ohio-based owner FirstEnergy Corp. would rather close them and drive up the price of electricity, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.


International Electric Power, a Pittsburgh-based company that invests on power projects abroad, told the newspaper on Friday that they are interested in the Hatfield’s Ferry Power Station and Mitchell Power Station.


At a state Senate hearing Friday in Waynesburg, state officials urged FirstEnergy to find a buyer for the two plants. But FirstEnergy officials told lawmakers they have had no offers for the plants and insisted that the plants are unprofitable, given the expense to meet toughening federal air quality standards and an industry shift toward cheaper natural gas from the Marcellus Shale formation.


About 380 employees could be out of work if the plants close as scheduled Oct. 9.


Bob Whalen, president of System Local 102, the utility workers union, said he believes FirstEnergy wants to close the plants to drive up the price for electricity from its other power plants in the region.


Valley Forge-based PJM Interconnection, the grid operator that distributes electricity to Pennsylvania and 12 other states, had asked FirstEnergy in August to delay closing the plants out of concern for the supply of electricity in the region. But on Friday, PJM senior vice president Andy Ott said it does not seem as though FirstEnergy is making “an irrational decision” to close the plants and that any delay in closing them would be brief.


Robert Powelson, chairman of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, told lawmakers at the hearing that he hopes federal officials might agree to make Hatfield’s Ferry a pilot site for carbon capture and sequestration technology, saving it from closure.


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