Utilities union and local officials turn to Columbus for help –
Story by Patricia Beech –
Photo by Mark Carpenter –
Saving Adams County’s coal-fired power plants was on the Statehouse agenda Tuesday, Jan. 17 as local leaders and members of the Utilities Union Local #175 presented their case to Ohio’s lawmakers.
“These plants mean a lot to Adams County communities, and to everyone from the area,” said Greg Adams, President of Local # 175. “It would be devastating to lose these power plants.”
The announcement that the coal-fired facilities would face final closure in June 2018 came one week before an explosion at the JM Stuart Plant injured six workers and suspended production indefinitely. The damage to Unit One at the facility was so extensive that Adams says it’s difficult to say when or if it will be operational again.
“There are probably no plans on bringing Unit One back on line pending them getting in there and checking it out and seeing what all the explosion tore up,” Adams said. “They’re attempting to bring Units 3 and 4 back on line, hopefully within seven to 10 days, and Unit 2 shortly after that, we hope.”
Adams said the union doesn’t expect the Unit One closure to result in worker lay offs.
“We have a No-Layoff clause in our current contract,” he said. “That guaranteed employment provision means that everyone will stay on until our current contract expires on Oct. 31, 2017.”
Adams hopes the Union and local officials can convince state and federal lawmakers to put up a fight to save the coal-fired plants.
“Back in the 1970’s there was a natural gas shortage in some areas, so we don’t think its smart to walk away from other fossil fuels such as coal,” says Adams. “Wind and solar can only provide so much production and putting all your eggs in to the natural basket because it’s cheap right now doesn’t mean it’s going to be cheap forever. Coal is still a viable option for future energy production.”
Whatever the future of coal may be, companies like DP&L, Duke, and AEP have been moving away from fossil-fueled generating plants in favor of cleaner forms of energy production. Adams argues that change-over need not end production at the Adams County plants.
“There are several companies purchasing coal-powered generating plants and we’d like DP&L to consider that option to see if there is anyone who would be interested in buying it.”
Any company purchasing the plants will also be buying the problems that come with the territory.
The Stuart Plant, which is partially owned by Dynegy Inc., the AES Corporation, and American Electric Power, is currently under investigation for health related violations, but DP&L is contesting these findings.
OSHA has found several violations at the facility since 2009, resulting in thousands of dollars in fines according to a labor department spokesperson.
A September 2016 report called “America’s Super Polluters” by the Center for Public Integrity placed the Stuart Plant in the top 22 list of 100 facilities with the greatest toxic-air and greenhouse gas emissions in 2014.