An interesting story has come to light and may explain what AMP-OHIO was up to and why with concerns to Painesville.
Power plant closing at end of ’10
AMP-Ohio deal with EPA forces decision; 90 jobs at stake
By Brad Bauer and Evan Bevins, The Marietta Times
ART SMITH The Marietta Times
The 60-year-old Richard H. Gorsuch Generating Station, an American Municipal Power facility located along Ohio 7 near the Eramet-Marietta plant, will be shut down by the end of this year as a result of a settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Justice Department that alleged violations of the U.S. Clean Air Act.
American Municipal Power's Richard H. Gorsuch Generating Station near Marietta will be shuttered by the end of the year as part of a settlement to resolve alleged clean air violations.
The settlement, with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Justice Department, called for the plant to be shut down by the end of 2012, but AMP-Ohio said in a Wednesday afternoon release that Dec. 15 would be the last day of operation.
"Continuing to invest money to ensure safe plant operations does not make sense given the fact that the consent decree will mandate shutdown in 2012," the release says.
The Gorsuch plant employs approximately 90 people, said Kent Carson, AMP-Ohio spokesman. The facility, built in 1951 as part of the Union Carbide complex, is located just south of Marietta on Ohio 7, across from Eramet-Marietta.
In its release, AMP-Ohio said the closure had nothing to do with the local workforce.
"We are very appreciative of the Gorsuch staff and the dedication they have shown through the years," AMP President and CEO Marc Gerken says in the release. "Unfortunately, the current situation makes retiring the plant the only reasonable business decision."
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency filed suit against AMP in April 2009, alleging the coal-fired plant violated pollution standards for years through improper upgrades and maintenance on the nearly 60-year-old facility. According to the suit, the work violated the spirit of the U.S. Clean Air Act, which was aimed at reducing emissions by phasing-out the nation's oldest and dirtiest power plants.
Although older plants like the Gorsuch station are exempt from the newer standards, the Clean Air Act requires older plants to undergo a permitting process for any major modification. Any improvements would subject the plant to the same regulations as newer facilities. The EPA claimed the modifications made to the plant - some of them before AMP Ohio owned it - were made without meeting the new standards.
AMP-Ohio maintains that the plant remained in compliance with its operating permits.
"It's important to understand that when considering modifications at a generating facility, the (EPA) is not only looking at whether the modifications actually increased emissions, but also whether they had the potential to increase emissions," AMP Vice President of Generation Operations Mike Perry says in the company's release. "AMP has responsibly operated the facility since taking ownership, and we have made a number of improvements at the facility that have actually reduced emissions."
As part of the settlement, AMP-Ohio must also spend $15 million on an environmental mitigation project and pay a civil penalty of $850,000, according to court documents filed Tuesday. The release says this is expected to result in the creation of 30 new jobs, but Carson said they will not be in this area.
According to the release, the station will continue operating all four boilers during the peak summer demand period, then reducing to two boilers through mid-December. Plant staff will be reduced after the summer peak.
When the suit was brought, AMP-Ohio officials said they intended to take the Gorsuch plant off line in 2014, once construction was completed on a new multibillion-dollar, coal-fired plant that was set to open in Meigs County. However, last fall, the organization announced their plans to move forward with the Meigs project had been scrapped after project costs came in higher than expected.
At that time, AMP-Ohio officials said they would "re-evaluate" their earlier plans to close Gorsuch.
Although it was known the plant might be shut down in the near future, Washington County Commissioner Cora Marshall said Wednesday's news was "sad to hear."
"(It) affects not only the workers but everyone in our area," she said.
AMP-Ohio says in the release it has a fully funded pension fund for plant retirees, and the organization will work with existing employees to make sure they're aware of job training and other available resources.
The plant's loss will be felt by local government as well since it provides more than $500,000 a year in taxes in the county, about $317,000 of that going to the Warren Local School District, according to Washington County Auditor Bill McFarland. The district board of education called a special meeting for 8 a.m. today to discuss the impact of the impending closure on a planned bond issue scheduled to be decided in an August special election.
AMP-Ohio says in its release that the site might be considered for a gas peaking project, to help provide additional power during peak usage periods, but no decision has been made. That operation would require fewer workers, and Carson said it was too early to say whether some current employees could fill those jobs.
The electricity generated at Gorsuch serves just under 50 member communities, mostly in northern Ohio and none in this area, Carson said.
However, it still provides energy and steam to plants in the area, including Eramet. AMP-Ohio purchased controlling interest in the power plant in 1988 from Elkem Metals, which became Eramet.
Eramet spokeswoman Joy Frank-Collins said she expects the Gorsuch closure will have minimal impact on Eramet.
"We're already planning on alternatives, so I don't expect that it will have a big impact," she said.
AMP-Ohio says in its release that steam and water customers were notified in 2006 that AMP was unable to renew existing contracts and cessation of operations was likely.
According to the EPA, the Gorsuch Generating Station has the potential to emit more than 100 tons per year each of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and particulate matter. The EPA's 2008 Toxic Release Inventory said the Gorsuch plant disposed of on-site or otherwise emitted a total of 1.4 million pounds of chemicals.
Federal EPA officials did not return telephone calls for comment Wednesday. The U.S. Justice Department issued a press release calling the settlement a victory.
"The Justice Department is committed to strong enforcement of our nation's environmental laws in order to protect human health and the environment," Ignacia S. Moreno, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division, says in the release. "This settlement will remove harmful emissions from this coal-fired power plant by tens of thousands of tons each year and will significantly benefit air quality."
According to the press release, AMP's commitment to retire the plant will reduce nitrogen oxide emissions in the area by approximately 3,160 tons per year.
AMP, based in Columbus, is a nonprofit organization that provides generation, transmission, and distribution of wholesale electric power to municipal electric systems. AMP is made up of 129 member municipal communities in five states.
The proposed settlement was lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio and is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.
They don't seem too concerned where to find the electric power to replace this plant; probably on the open market.
Now remember how imperative it was to get the Meigs County plant up and running, so important that they sent the president of AMP Ohio to a Painesville Council meeting to approve that deal. My question: "Was the city manager and council president aware that this plant was being scuttled..and was that what the rush was all about?