Coal Closings May Undermine FirstEnergy’s Attempt to Shift Plant to Bankrupt Subsidiary
By Kathiann M. Kowalski
FirstEnergy wants to transfer a West Virginia coal plant into its bankrupt subsidiary’s portfolio, but the justification for the move is in doubt as the company seeks other coal plant closures.
On August 26, FirstEnergy Solutions’ Chief Restructuring Officer Charles Moore told the bankruptcy court in Ohio that “another coal-fired power station … would add purchasing power to enhance the value to the Debtors’ enterprise.”
Yet FirstEnergy had already scheduled the Pleasants Power Station in West Virginia to close next year.
And just three days after Moore’s declaration, FirstEnergy Solutions announced it would close the Eastlake coal plant and remaining coal and diesel units at the Sammis plant in Ohio, along with 2,490 megawatts of capacity at the Bruce Mansfield coal plant in Pennsylvania.
Environmental advocates welcomed the shutdown news. “This will mark the end of FirstEnergy’s coal portfolio in the state of Ohio,” said Dan Sawmiller, Ohio energy policy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council.
First Energy Solutions President Don Moul said in an August 29 press release announcing the latest planned closures: “As with nuclear, our fossil-fueled plants face the insurmountable challenge of a market that does not sufficiently value their contribution to the security and flexibility of our power system.”
At the same time, the company could reverse its decision if the federal government mandates support for fossil and nuclear generating plants.
Either way, the timing raises questions about who benefits from the proposed transfer, and how it might affect consumers or taxpayers.
“What’s good for FirstEnergy here is not necessarily good for the public,” said Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center.