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Legislators: Cold Snap Raises New Questions About Power Plant Closures In Western PA

By: NorthcentralPA.com |

A recent cold snap and subsequent warnings about power consumption have raised new questions about the closure of two southwestern Pennsylvania power plants, Sen. Tim Solobay (D-Washington) and Rep. Pam Snyder (D-Fayette) said in a letter sent today to state utility regulators and officials who run the region’s power grid.Below-zero temperatures a week ago caused local utility officials to ask industrial customers and consumers to curtail power consumption, despite assurances last fall that the closure of the Hatfield’s Ferry and Mitchell power plants would not affect the reliability of the power grid administered by PJM Interconnection.Sen. Solobay and Rep. Snyder said the warnings issued during the cold weather raise new questions about last year’s assessment of FirstEnergy’s closure plans by PJM officials and the state Public Utility Commission.“(W)e continue to have reason to be gravely concerned about the future of electricity generation and reliability for our constituents,” the lawmakers said in their letter to PJM officials and the PUC.“It is our position that PJM must answer to the public, to those 380 employees and their families affected by the closure, to those consumers that were asked to conserve their electricity in fear that they may be left without any, and to all those that worked diligently for months trying to convey their serious concerns on the effect the closures could have on the power grid and the dependability of electricity in our area,” the letter said.While temperatures in the region hit record lows for January 6 and 7, they were not unprecedented or unforeseen.  Southwestern Pennsylvania was hit with colder weather in the early 90s, sparking concerns then about power usage.“PJM officials assured the public during hearings related to local plant closings that the grid would have enough electricity to reliably meet demand. Based on the most recent events, it appears the PJM needs to reevaluate,” the lawmakers said in their letter, asking for a new assessment of the grid in light of the closures and plans for future shut-downs of coal-fired plants. Local families need to be assured that they will have electricity when temperatures reach record lows or record highs,” the lawmakers said.  “Consumers under PJM Interconnection deserve to have these answers.”