Citing more stringent federal mercury and air toxic standards (MATS), Akron, OH-based FirstEnergy said Thursday it plans to retire six older coal-fired electric generation plants representing 2,689 MW by Sept. 1.

The company also said other environmental regulations were related to the decision that comes after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized MATS calling for much stricter emissions requirements that are difficult for older coal plants to meet (see Daily GPI, Dec. 21, 2011). These generation facilities are located in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland and will require reliability reviews by PJM Interconnection, the regional transmission operator.

FirstEnergy said that most recently the plants slated for shutdown have operated primarily as peaking or intermediate facilities, generating on average about 10% of the company’s power production the past three years. It was not immediately clear if any added natural gas-fired generation would be required to make up for the loss of capacity.

The company has no plans (or need) to replace the capacity lost from the upcoming retirements, a FirstEnergy spokesperson told NGI, noting that there is too much excess capacity in the domestic U.S. power market. It will announce plans in the next few months for complying with MATS at three remaining coal-fired plants in West Virginia that total about 500 MW, the spokesperson said.

Four of the plants are in Ohio, Bay Shore Units 2-4; Eastlake; Ashtabula; and Lake Shore in Cleveland; another is in Pennsylvania, the Armstrong Power Station; and the one in Maryland, R. Paul Smith Power Station in Williamsport, MD. More than 500 employees will be relocated or retired as a result of the closings.

FirstEnergy recently completed a “comprehensive review of our coal-fired generating plants,” said James Lash, president and chief nuclear officer, determining that additional investment to comply with MATS and other environmental rules “would make these older plants even less likely to be dispatched under market rules.” As a result, the plants are going to be retired.

The multi-state utility holding company said it is finalizing MATS compliance plans for its remaining coal-fired plants in a generation fleet that generates more than 23,000 MW, including the plants slated for retirement. “Since the Clean Air Act became law in 1970, FirstEnergy and its predecessor companies have invested more than $10 billion in environmental protection efforts,” the company said.

After the retirements, FirstEnergy’s generating fleet will have more than 96% of its power provided by resources considered non- or low-emitting, including gas, scrubbed coal units, hydro, pumped-storage hydro and nuclear, according to the company.

©Copyright 2012Intelligence Press Inc. All rights reserved. The preceding news reportmay not be republished or redistributed, in whole or in part, in anyform, without prior written consent of Intelligence Press, Inc.