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3 W.Va. coal-fired power plants to close

| Thursday, Feb. 9, 2012

FirstEnergy Corp. will have shut down more than half of its coal-fired power plants by Sept. 1, the result of more stringent air pollution rules finalized late last year.

With an announcement on Wednesday that the Akron, Ohio-based company will close three old plants in West Virginia, the number of closures announced since last month hits nine.

FirstEnergy's seven remaining coal plants, including two in southwestern Pennsylvania, will continue operating, said Ray Evans, the company's executive director of environment.

"There will be no further closures based on what we currently know," Evans said yesterday.

The Albright, Willow Island and Rivesville power stations in West Virginia will be shuttered rather than upgraded to meet the Environmental Protection Agency's recently finalized Mercury and Air Toxics Standards and other environmental regulations, the company said. Those plants join the Armstrong Power Station in Adrian in Armstrong County and five other plants in Ohio and Maryland that FirstEnergy said last month also will close by Sept. 1.

The latest closings will impact 105 employees in West Virginia. The three plants mostly served as peaking facilities recently and generated less than 1 percent of FirstEnergy's electricity during the past three years, the company said. Their total capacity is 660 megawatts.

Remaining open are two power plants in the Pittsburgh region, the Bruce Mansfield Power Station in Shippingport and the Mitchell Power Station in New Eagle. The company is reviewing what upgrades may be necessary at those two plants and five others to bring them into compliance with the new standards, Evans said.

FirstEnergy also will continue generating electricity from 12 other plants powered by nuclear, natural gas and hydro.

The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, finalized by the EPA in late December, "will prevent as many as 11,000 premature deaths and 4,700 heart attacks a year," the agency has stated.

The Obama administration was under court order to issue the new rule after a federal court threw out an attempt by the Bush administration to exempt power plants from controls for toxic pollutants.

FirstEnergy, which operates the West Penn Power and Penn Power electric utilities in Pennsylvania, said it expects to spend $2 billion to $3 billion on upgrades at its other power plants to meet the new rules.

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