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July 16, 2013

Power Plant in Ohio to Retire, Not Refuel With Natural Gas


Muskingum River Plant
Muskingum River Plant, Waterford, OH (Photo: Google Maps)
On the heels of President Obama’s climate action speech, coal-fired power plants will soon be retired, mitigating what’s been a persistent risk to human health and the environment. But there’s still one problem. Many utilities suppliers are moving toward natural gas, another dirty fossil fuel. During his speech, President Obama noted that he believes that transitioning to natural gas is a move toward clean energy, a statement that the Sierra Club’s Beyond Natural Gas campaign believes is false. Instead of using natural gas, it is essential to move beyond this resource and switch to renewable energy such as wind and solar to truly protect our climate and ensure that we keep our families healthy and our air and water clean and safe.

Thus, the Sierra Club was happy to hear that American Electric Power (AEP), one of the largest electric utilities in the United States, plans to close a coal-fired power plant near Beverly, Ohio -- a plant that was considered for conversion to natural gas. Last February, the Sierra Club as well as 13 citizens groups, eight states, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finally came to an agreement with AEP to shut down four units of the Muskingum River Nuclear Power plant, with plans to study the feasibility of refueling a fifth unit with natural gas.

In case you missed it, here are the nitty-gritty details from the agreement: AEP reached an agreement with other parties to modify its 2007 decree that addresses air pollution under the federal Clean Air Act -- what’s called a New Source Review decree -- which gave AEP the option to retire the Muskingum River’s fifth unit or refuel it with natural gas.

However, AEP announced on Thursday that the Muskingum River Unit 5, with a capacity of 585 megawatts, will cease operations in 2015. In the statement, AEP cited unfavorable current market conditions and announced it would not convert the plant to natural gas: “AEP has determined that it is unlikely to make the capital investment to refuel the unit.”

As the utility companies retire their coal units, it is critical that we take care of working families, as well as build a greener economy with new clean energy jobs. Across the nation, Americans are finding jobs in the clean energy industry, developing new technology, installing solar panels on rooftops, maintaining wind turbines, and more. We’re glad that AEP’s decision will help create a healthier, safer, and more sustainable planet.

--Dan Sawmiller, Senior Campaign Representative, Ohio and Kentucky Beyond Coal  



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