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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2013 - 2014 Regular Session


Posted: February 11, 2014 01:32 PM
From: Senator Timothy J. Solobay
To: All Senate members
Subject: Coal-Fired Electric Generation Deactivation Commission

Over the last five years, we have witnessed the deactivation of a record number of coal-fired electric generation facilities in Pennsylvania. The closings have been due to several factors, including decreased demand for electricity, an abundant supply of natural gas, and increased costs of operating coal-fired plants resulting from the EPA’s new clean air regulations.

As the Regional Transmission Organization in Pennsylvania, PJM Interconnection has oversight of the deactivation of coal-fired power plants only if deactivation would adversely impact the reliability of the electric grid. PJM requires 90 days’ notice when a company decides to deactivate a plant. Unfortunately, there is no requirement to provide similar notification to the employees whose livelihoods are forever impacted by the decision to deactivate.

Because PJM’s oversight of the deactivation process is limited to the preservation of grid reliability, many critical issues are not fully vetted or addressed prior to deactivation. Currently, there is no local, state or federal government agency assigned to assess the fiscal, environmental, economic, and community impacts associated with the closure of coal plants operating in this Commonwealth. Owners of generating facilities can simply power down and lock their doors, with no clear-cut responsibilities, consequences or repercussions for the disorder they are inflicting on the lives of their employees, the surrounding community, and the now-abandoned facilities.

In the near future, I will introduce legislation to establish the Coal-Fired Electric Generation Deactivation Commission. The Commission will be charged with reviewing and investigating the potentially adverse impacts that plant closures have on the economy, electric reliability, and the environment. The Commission will provide an opportunity for state and local government officials, affected employees, business owners, and other stakeholders to participate in the public hearing process. And it would be required to render final decisions concerning the deactivation, cleanup and remediation of coal-fired electric generation power plants statewide.

This legislation also provides employee protections, such as minimum requirements for severance payments and the continuation of health care benefits. Finally, it would require the owner to remediate the facility and surrounding area in order to receive approval to deactivate.

As elected officials, we have the responsibility to “keep the lights on,” but we also have a responsibility to protect the health, safety and welfare of this Commonwealth. I believe that duty includes state oversight of the deactivation of Pennsylvania-based, coal-fired electric generation facilities.

If you have any questions regarding this legislation, please contact Hannah Walsh in my office at 787-1463 or hwalsh@pasenate.com.

Introduced as SB1273