MARIETTA - A misunderstanding about information shared with members at a recent Muskingum Valley Area Chamber of Commerce meeting began the rumor mill flying that American Electric Power's Muskingum River Plant would be rehiring some workers.
Area officials, residents and even plant employees have been spreading the news.
Unfortunately, that is not the case, according to Melissa McHenry, spokeswoman for the Columbus-based utility.
"No one has been rehired," she said. "There may have been some confusion due to some comments that Nate Long (plant manager at AEP's Muskingum River Plant) made at the (chamber of commerce) meeting."
The hiring news that Long shared related to a Virginia coal company that re-opened and is hiring 500 people.
As of now, AEP's plan is to retire generating units 1 to 4 at the Muskingum River Plant in Beverly by June 1, 2015.
At a Glance
American Electric Power's coal-fueled power plants:
* Units 1 to 4 at AEP's Muskingum River Plant will be retired by June 1, 2015.
* Unit 5 could be converted to burn natural gas instead of coal or be retired. No decision has yet been made.
* Companywide, AEP will retire between 5,000 to 6,000 megawatts of coal-fueled generating by mid-2015.
* The Muskingum River Plant is one of 12 AEP facilities that may be retired or have units shut down.
Source: Melissa McHenry,
Unit 5, the plant's largest generating unit, could be converted to burn natural gas instead of coal or be retired.
"That final decision has not been made," McHenry said.
The time frame for unit 5 "would be in the same time frame or maybe a little bit after," she added.
"I would hope that they would be able to convert unit 5," said Beverly Mayor Rex Kenyon.
Although the retirement of the other four units at the Beverly plant is set to occur, Kenyon reported that an AEP spokesperson told him there would be about 30 people who might be retained or hired if unit 5 at the Muskingum River Plant was converted to burn natural gas.
The closure of units 1 to 4 "will be a loss to the community as far as wages, but that's better than losing all of the wages," said Kenyon.
Units at the Muskingum River Plant have been impacted by new EPA regulations designed to reduce emissions from coal-fueled power plants that took effect in December 2011.
The new rules call for mercury emissions to be reduced by 90 percent by the start of 2015, along with significant reductions in the emissions of other toxins.
"Because of the stringency (of regulations), in some older plants the economics don't make sense to install additional equipment to allow (AEP) to meet these new, more stringent regulations," McHenry said.
"Who can tell anything about what's going on with the regulatory environment?" said Terry Tamburini, executive director of the Southeastern Ohio Port Authority.
In Monday's news, Tamburini heard that the EPA is talking about stricter regulations with regard to soot.
Tamburini said he understands why the communities near the Beverly plant have kept their thinking positive about unit 5 at the Muskingum River Plant.
"There's always been some level of optimism about unit 5 because it was newer in terms of its design," he said.
In total, "AEP will retire between 5,000 to 6,000 megawatts of coal-fueled generating by mid 2015," McHenry said.
The Muskingum River Plant, which was at one time the largest coal-fueled power plant in the U.S., is one of 12 AEP facilities that may be retired or have units shut down.
These actions are expected to impact approximately 600 of AEP's more than 20,000 employees, said McHenry.
The size and age of generating units, as well as the cost and equipment required to comply with EPA regulations, are factors that will be used to determine retirements and retrofits, she added.
In June 2011, AEP announced plans that would impact operations and employees at the Muskingum River Plant.
"We value our employees that work for us at our facilities. We've talked with employees about these dates for some time," McHenry said.
"We're making them aware of opportunities in other plants that become available if they could relocate or commute," she added.