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Neighbors of Greene County power plant claim pollution nuisance in federal lawsuit

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Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013, 2:06 p.m.

Neighbors of a soon-to-be-shuttered FirstEnergy power plant in Greene County filed a proposed class-action lawsuit in federal court against the company, alleging the plant is a nuisance that is polluting the environment and damaging their homes.

Three people who live in Masontown, near the Hatfield's Ferry plant across the river in Monongahela Township, say FirstEnergy knows the coal-fired plant spreads soot, chemicals, gasses, odors and other pollution. They are seeking unspecified damages.

The lawsuit filed on Tuesday in U.S. District Court, Downtown, says more than 1,000 people who live within 1.5 miles of Hatfield's Ferry could join it in a class-action case.

A spokeswoman said the Akron-based power company has not seen the lawsuit and declined to comment.

FirstEnergy last month announced it would close Hatfield's Ferry and its Mitchell station in Washington County in October because it could not afford to spend about $275 million needed to bring the plants into compliance with federal air and mercury standards.

Spokeswoman Stephanie Thornton said the company plans to deactivate Hatfield's Ferry on Oct. 9, although electrical grid operator PJM Interconnection asked for a delay. FirstEnergy will respond to that request by Sept. 9, Thornton said.

James DePasquale, lawyer for neighbors Julius and Francine Jesso and Sheilah Novasky, said he would seek an injunction to shut down the plant if it wasn't already closing.

“Certainly these people have a right to be compensated for what they've been through,” he said.

A ruling last week in a similar lawsuit DePasquale filed on behalf of neighbors of a Cheswick power station cleared the way for the latest action. The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a ruling that dismissed the lawsuit against the NRG Energy plant, which claims it is a nuisance to neighbors.

The appeals court said people can pursue property damage claims against a plant owner even if it complies with government air regulations.

DePasquale said the Masontown neighbors were ready to sue a year ago but waited for a ruling in the Cheswick appeal.

“The operation by defendant of its coal fired electrical generation facility has been the subject of numerous and constant complaints ... all of which has failed to compel defendant to cease the improper operation of its facility and to continue defendant's invasion and trespass of plaintiffs properties by air contaminants, odors, chemicals and particulates which thereby cause damage to plaintiff's properties,” the lawsuit states.

David Conti is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5802 or

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