PARKERSBURG - The new Clear Air Standards will save lives in the long run, said an Environmental Protection Agency spokesman after American Electric Power announced last week it would close three West Virginia coal-fired plants and partially close a plant in Beverly, Ohio.
''These long-overdue Clean Air Act standards will slash hazardous emissions of mercury and other acid gases, preventing thousands of asthma and heart attacks and premature deaths,'' said Roy Seneca, EPA Region 3 press officer. ''Utilities have known for decades that these standards which are still in the proposal stage and have a built-in three-year compliance timeline, have been coming for decades.''
The West Virginia plants to be closed by Dec. 31, 2014, are the Kammer Plant in Moundsville, the Kanawha River Plant in Glasgow and the Phillip Sporn Plant in New Haven. Also being mothballed are the Picway Plant in Lockbourne, Ohio, and the Glen Lyn Plant in Glen Lyn, Va. More than 240 jobs will be impacted.
The company also plans to retrofit and upgrade several other plants with new advanced emissions reduction equipment, including the Muskingum River Plant in Beverly, Ohio, where Units 1-4 will be retired by Dec. 31, 2014, and Unit 5 may be refueled with natural gas with a capacity of 510 MW by Dec. 31, 2014, depending on regulatory treatment in Ohio.
Jobs losses will total 600 jobs, the company said.
Seneca said affected parties can approach the EPA over concerns about implementing the regulations.
''They also know that they are free to approach EPA with serious, fact-based compliance plans, and that state governments also have the ability under the law to seek more time for the plants in their jurisdictions,'' he said.
West Virginia's state and national leaders have already criticized the proposals as having a lasting negative impact on West Virginia's economy, especially the state's coal industry, and accusing EPA officials of not understanding the immediate impacts these closures will have on the state in job and tax revenue lost.
AEP generates nearly 66 percent of its energy using coal power. It is one of the largest electric utility companies in the United States, delivering electricity to 5 million customers in 11 states.
Coal generates 98 percent of the state's electricity.
Seneca said many of the new technologies will result in new jobs to implement them.
''The standards leverage existing American-made pollution control technologies that are already deployed at over half of the nation's coal and oil-fired power plants, and will result in thousands of jobs across the country as workers install the technologies at plants,'' he said.