GenOn to close 3 area coal-burning power plants

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GenOn Energy Inc. will shut down eight old, coal-burning power plants, three in western Pennsylvania at Shawville, Clearfield County, New Castle in Lawrence County, and Elrama in northern Washington County.

The Houston, Texas-based power company announced the power plant deactivations today as part of its 2011 earnings report, blaming federal environmental regulations requiring installation of pollution control equipment.

According to the company's press release, which announced earnings before taxes, interest and depreciation of $622 million for last year, the "forecasted returns on investments necessary to comply with environmental regulations are insufficient."

The eight closures, which will occur between June 2012 and May 2015, include a total of five power plants in Pennsylvania, two in Ohio and one in New Jersey. Elrama is scheduled to close in June, and Shawville and New Castle in April 2015.

The deactivations will reduce the company's power output by 3,120 megawatts to 19,490 megawatts. It had previously announced two other power plant closures in Virginia and California, and one new power plant in California that will come on line in mid-2013.

The Sierra Club hailed the closures as a "victory for clean air." The pollution emissions reductions will prevent more than 179 premature deaths, 300 heart attacks, and 2,800 asthma attacks, according to data from the Clean Air Task Force, a national environmental clean air advocacy group.

"Above all, this is a win for public health and for families who have been breathing polluted air from these outdated plants," said Bruce Nilles, senior director of the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign.

"GenOn has recognized that operating outdated, dirty coal plants just doesn't make economic sense anymore, especially in a time when constructing a wind farm is now cheaper than building a new coal plant. What matters now is ensuring that GenOn does the right thing and transitions these workers into the growing clean energy sector."


Don Hopey: dhopey@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1983.


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