Update: Possible Plant Closing Concerns Residents

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Update 2/28/2012

The Willow Island Power Station, the oldest of two coal-fired power plants in Pleasants County, continues to operate...with the anticipation that it will eventually be closed down permanently.

Although 35 people work there, and some might not be from pleasants county, residents here say most undoubtedly have families to support.

"Of course, it's going to have an effect," says Pleasants County resident April Kibble. "There are a lot of jobs lost here, and there are going to be more. And there are families who are still hurting from job losses."

If the voting public follows the comments of the people we talked to, President Obama's popularity in Pleasants County isn't much different than it is in the rest of West Virginia.

"I don't think it's going to go too good for him," said Dave Riggs. "He doesn't have my vote."

While officials of First Energy in February gave the plant a seven-month time frame for its closing, the West Virginia Public Service Commission has asked the company to show cause for its closing, as well as that of two other Mountain State coal-fired power plants.

UPDATE 02/08/2012

New Environmental Protection Agency regulations and seven months from now, 35 men and women once employed at the Willow Island Power Station will be without a job.

"It's not a great day for us," explains Mark Durbin, a FirstEnergy Corp. spokesperson. "Anytime you have employees affected regarding an announcement like this, that's not a good day for the company, but, it's just something we had to do based on the way the environmental rules are."

The plant closing is next to the main Pleasants Generating Facility. Durbin says it makes more sense to close the plant than constantly pay to update equipment as new EPA regulations take hold. Durbin says FirstEnergy is working to make sure all Willow Island employees have options come September 1.

"We'll see if there aren't some jobs available at the Pleasant Plant, it's right next door. One third of those employees already qualify for some sort of retirement through FirstEnergy," Durbin says. "We are also offering what we call a voluntary separation program. If that isn't workable for some employees, they don't quite qualify for retirement, they don't find a job at one of our other locations, there would be a severance that would be available to them."

Community members say one job is too many to lose in a time when so many are already struggling to survive.

"A small town like st. Marys, about 1,800 people, there aren't factory jobs just out there," says St. Marys City Manager, Rick Phillips. "At this time when the economy is not doing so well, I wonder what these employees are going to do for jobs."
Willow Island Power Station is one of three aging plants in West Virginia owned by FirstEnergy Corp. that will be shut down later this year. It's the plant right next door to the Pleasants county generating facility pictured here.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Three aging coal-fired power plants in West Virginia owned by FirstEnergy Corp. will be shut down later this year.

FirstEnergy announced Wednesday that subsidiary Monongahela Power will retire the Albright, Willow Island and Rivesville power stations by Sept. 1. The plants employ a total 105 workers.

Akron, Ohio-based FirstEnergy attributed the shutdowns to new federal environmental regulations.

The regulations are designed to reduce emissions of mercury and other toxic pollutants from coal- and oil-fired plants.

FirstEnergy says the three plants' total generating capacity is about 3 percent of the electricity produced by the company. Over the past three years, they generated less than 1 percent of the company's electricity and served mostly as peaking facilities.

Six coal-fired power plants in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland also will be retired.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

PRESS RELEASE: Office of Governor Earl Ray Tomblin

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin today issued the following statement after learning First Energy Corporation will close three of its West Virginia coal-fired power plants this year, affecting 105 workers and their families, due to strict federal Environmental Protection Agency regulations.

"This is another example of how the EPA is costing us good jobs in West Virginia and throughout Appalachia," Gov. Tomblin said. "When the EPA adopts regulations they continue to fail to take into account the real-life effects these rules have on hard working Americans like those who have dedicated themselves to First Energy at the West Virginia locations. I urge the EPA to respectfully and accurately review the entire impact of their decisions-from environmental to economical- because individuals, families and communities are forever changed by their short-sighted decisions."

PRESS RELEASE: Office of Representative (R)David McKinley

Washington, D.C. - First Energy Corporation announced Wednesday it will close three coal-fired plants in West Virginia later this year due to the EPA's newest proposed guideline, the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) Regulation. All three plants are located within the First District, and the closures are expected to leave 105 West Virginians unemployed. The new rule is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register next week.

"Today's news is devastating for the 105 men and women - and their families - who will be affected by these Obama layoffs," McKinley said. "In 2008, President Obama promised his radical environmentalist campaign donors he would eliminate coal-fired power plants, and now we are watching it slowly come to full fruition.

"His latest attempt to eradicate coal and other related industries comes in the form of yet another regulation-the MATS rule. What is being called the most expensive regulation in history is having a direct effect on my constituents, and I'm taking it personally. West Virginia's economy is heavily dependent on the use of coal. Consequently, protecting the jobs for men and women in the coal industry must remain our top priority. Because of this new rule, First Energy will be forced to close their plants in northern West Virginia district and retire an additional six facilities in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland. This will leave another 500 hardworking taxpayers looking for a job.

"The House continues to pass bipartisan legislation that will discontinue Obama's war on coal and end EPA overregulation. These bills - my coal ash legislation, the TRAIN Act, the REINS Act and others - are stacking up like cordwood over in the Senate, and I cannot for the life of me understand why Senator Reid doesn't seem interested in passing these bills and creating more American jobs. When the President campaigns on his perception of a 'do nothing Congress,' he should look no further than his Democratic colleagues in the Senate. Had the Senate passed even one of the House-passed, regulation repealing measures, who knows how many American jobs we could have already saved?"

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