By Chelsea Miller
The closure of seven coal-powered plants in Ohio and Pennsylvania will prevent more than 179 premature deaths, 300 heart attacks and 2,800 asthma attacks, says the Clean Air Task Force.
The plants are owned by GenOn Energy Inc., a nationwide energy generator, which announced Wednesday that it plans to close plants across the two states.
The company said forecasted returns on investments were insufficient to comply with current environmental regulations, and the shutdowns would represent a loss of 3,140 megawatts in generating capacity.
Megawatt is the standard term of measurement for bulk electricity.
Ohio plants affected include those in Niles and Avon Lake, and plants retiring in Pennsylvania are in New Castle, Portland, Shawville, Titus and Elrama. The closures will occur between 2012 and 2015.
Several area activists have been pushing for cleaner energy alternatives, including the Sierra Club, which hailed GenOn’s announcement as a victory for citizens of Ohio and Pennsylvania. The Sierra Club is a grass-roots organization that pushes for alternative, environmentally friendly energy sources.
Rashay Layman, organizing representative with the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign in Ohio, said people will be “breathing easier” because of GenOn’s decision.
“The plant closures are definitely positive for Ohio in terms of public health,” she said, adding that coal is expensive in terms of medical bills caused by pollution.
Layman stressed the company must work with the community and shareholders to assure that the closures won’t lead to unemployment of its workers.
Clovis A. Linkous, professor of chemistry at Youngstown State University, said coal plants have ways to transition to cleaner emissions, but such endeavors are costly. Linkous is on YSU’s Environmental Sustainability Committee and said that until more cost- effective solutions are created, coal plants will continue to operate in the United States.
Layman said, however, the plant retirements are a sign of the future of energy production.
“I think that the plant closures are really reflective of a national trend, not just in Ohio,” she said. “Coal’s natural life cycle as a main energy source is on its way out.”