CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- FirstEnergy Corp. announced Wednesday that it will shut down three aging coal-fired power plants in West Virginia later this year.
The company's Monongahela Power subsidiary will retire the Albright, Willow Island and Rivesville power stations by Sept. 1, affecting a total of 105 workers.
Akron, Ohio-based FirstEnergy attributed the shutdowns to new federal environmental regulations that are designed to reduce emissions of mercury and other toxic pollutants from coal- and oil-fired plants.
FirstEnergy said the three plants' total generating capacity is about 3 percent of the electricity produced by the company. Over the past three years, they generated less than 1 percent of the company's electricity and served mostly as peaking facilities.
Six coal-fired power plants in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland also will be retired.
The Sierra Club praised the announcement and said that pollution from coal-fired power plants contributes to respiratory illnesses, asthma attacks, heart disease and cancer. It estimates closure of the West Virginia plants will prevent approximately 40 premature deaths, 64 heart attacks and 620 asthma attacks.
"This is good news for West Virginia because those plants will no longer be polluting our air and water like they have been for 60 years, said Jim Sconyers, chair of the West Virginia chapter.
Bill Price, the Sierra Club's environmental justice organizer, said the company should invest in clean-energy technology and create new jobs to help its workers.
"Closing these old, dirty plants is only the beginning of the responsibility that FirstEnergy owes to the surrounding communities," he said.
- West Virginia