Energy giant FirstEnergy Corp. has announced that it will close six older coal-fired power plants, four of which are nestled along the Lake Erie shoreline. The company made the decision after it became clear that upgrading the facilities to meet stiff new federal regulations concerning the discharge of airborne pollutants would not be cost effective.
The Ohio plants dotting the Lake Erie shore that have been targeted for closure are Bay Shore Units 2-4 near Toledo, the Lake Shore Plant in Cleveland, the Eastlake Plant, and the Ashtabula Plant. The other two plants to close are the Armstrong Power Station in Adrian, Pennsylvania, and the R. Paul Smith Power Station in Williamsport, Md.
The EPA new air quality standard lowering acceptable levels of mercury and other airborne pollutants from power plants went into effect on December 21st after decades of industry resistance and delay. The new standard is expected to save 11,000 lives annually. The closures will result in the loss of some jobs as well as a decline in tax revenue for the communities affected.
Bay Shore Unit 1 remains open. Last summer I reported on the high mortality of adult and juvenile fish species that result when the fish either impact or get sucked into intake screens at the Bay Shore plant.
As I reported back then, a study issued by the firm Abt Associates, commissioned by the Clean Air Task Force, found that over 13,000 deaths each year are due to fine particle pollution from U.S. power plants.
I am saddened by the loss of jobs this will cause but, by any measure, this is overall a big win for the American people due to the health benefits from tons of mercury no longer spewing into our atmosphere. My only regret is that this did not happen long ago. If it had, how many more lives would have been saved?