Sunday, January 23, 2022

Post-Gazette Editorial: Sale Of Last Coal-Fired Power Plant In Allegheny County Good Sign For Post-Coal Economy

This editorial first appeared in the
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on January 23, 2022--

The sale of the Cheswick Generating Station in Springdale, the last remaining coal-powered plant in Allegheny County, to a company that will conduct environmental remediation and redevelopment is a hopeful sign for a post-coal regional economy.

While leaders in the Allegheny Valley and the wider region need to remain vigilant, the sale of the coal plant properties to Charah Solutions should benefit the environment and boost the economy.

GenOn Holdings, which owns and runs the plant, announced in July of last year that the facility would close in September. Rumors had been swirling, but the news still surprised the plant’s 60 employees.

While the facility had finished its planned lifespan, it could have run longer, but environmental regulations and market conditions made that impractical. 

Cheswick is one of only a half-dozen remaining coal-fired plants in Pennsylvania, and the state Department of Environmental Protection predicts that none will operate after 2025.

Even though the plant is brought online only during times of high demand, and thus high prices, it is still one of the biggest air polluters in the county. 

Only U.S. Steel’s enormous Clairton Coke Works pumps more noxious particles into the atmosphere than Cheswick.

One analysis estimated the public health and environmental costs of these emissions added up to $100 million to $300 million annually. Compare that to the $9 million in payroll the plant contributed to the community.

Still, the communities of Cheswick and Springdale, understandably, had mixed feelings about the closure. 

The plant had anchored the community, visually and economically, for decades. Whatever gains that might come from losing it felt less real than the economic damage — not to mention the possibility of having a decaying, dangerous eyesore in the middle of the neighborhood.

Then, shortly after the July announcement, a reprieve: GenOn granted a stay of execution until this April. It was a hopeful sign for workers and the community that the plant might not just become an industrial ruin on the riverfront.

That’s where Charah Solutions comes in. Charah is acquiring the plant, along with a 50-acre landfill in Indiana Township and a seven-acre wastewater treatment facility in Springdale. 

It plans to tear down what needs to be torn down, remediate what needs to be remediated and reuse what can be reused. 

And the plan isn’t to create townhomes or shopping malls, but new, clean industrial facilities that use all the benefits of the location — the river, the rails, the power transmission infrastructure — in a smart, new way.

In the end, if all goes to plan, Cheswick and Springdale will have at least as many solid, blue-collar industrial jobs as before, but without the emissions of a coal-fired power plant.

Maybe the Allegheny Valley could model other environmentally — and economically — responsible post-coal projects around the region and country.

Related Articles:

-- PG - Laura Legere: Last Coal-Fired Power Plant In Allegheny County To Be Demolished, Redeveloped  

-- Post-Gazette Editorial: Pittsburgh To Host The World On How To Transition Away From Fossil Fuels

-- Sen. Comitta To Introduce Bill Investing RGGI Proceeds In Helping Communities & Workers In Clean Energy Transition, Environmental Justice Areas, Promote Energy Efficiency

-- New Poll: 65% Of PA Voters Want To Help Communities Affected By Transition To Clean Energy; 59% Would Vote For Candidates Supporting Reductions In Carbon Emissions

-- Sen. Comitta Calls For Hearings On The Failure Of Pennsylvania To Invest In Clean Energy Infrastructure

-- Evangelical Environmental Network: It’s Well Past Time For PA To Transition To A Clean Energy Economy

-- Sen. Street Introduces Bill To Set A New Clean Energy Standard And Support Carbon Capture To Eliminate All Carbon Dioxide Emissions From Power Plants By 2050

-- Guest Essay: Shifting Toward Clean Energy Can Lower Costs For Pennsylvanians; Unlike Natural Gas, Clean Energy Does Not Suffer From Wild Price Fluctuations

Related Articles This Week:

-- Pittsburgh, Philadelphia Join White House Building Energy Performance Standards Coalition  

-- EPA Invites Proposals On Research Into Drivers & Environmental Impacts Of Energy Transitions In Underserved Communities 

-- U.S. EIA: U.S. Electricity Generation From Natural Gas Now Falling Like Coal In Face Of New, Cheaper Renewable Power Plants [Not Subject To Whims Of International Energy Markets] 

-- U.S. EIA Expects U.S. Energy-Related Carbon Dioxide Emissions To Increase In 2022, 2023, Including From Natural Gas

-- Utility Dive: 2022 Outlook: U.S. Solar And Wind Energy Boom Continues Despite Supply Chain Woes, Build Back Better Uncertainty

[Posted: January 23, 2022]  PA Environment Digest

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