Wednesday, October 5, 2016

PSEG to close its last two N.J. coal-powered plants

Big victory for clean air in New Jersey

James M. O'Neill reports today in The (Bergen) Record:

PSEG Power said it will be closing its coal-burning power plant along the Hackensack River in Jersey City on June 1 next year, as well as its other remaining coal-powered plant, in Mercer County.

That would leave New Jersey with just one coal-powered plant in the state, the B.L. England facility in Cape May County.

The decision should help improve New Jersey’s chronically poor air quality, since coal-burning plants produce far more air pollution than those that burn natural gas. About half of New Jersey’s electricity is generated by nuclear plants, which produce no air emissions. PSEG Power’s large power plants in Ridgefield and Linden use natural gas.

New power grid rules to increase facility reliability would have required PSEG Power to make more costly upgrades to the two coal-burning plants. And the company has been relying more to its natural gas powered plants anyway in recent years because the cost of natural gas has dropped so low, especially since production ramped up from the Marcellus Shale region of neighboring Pennsylvania.

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“The sustained low prices of natural gas have put economic pressure on these plants for some time,” said Bill Levis, president and chief operating officer of PSEG Power. “In that context, we could not justify the significant investment required to upgrade these plants to meet the new reliability standards.”

He said the two coal-burning plants have not been used much in recent years.

The company said in a statement that it is evaluating options for future use of the sites, and is “committed to treating the approximately 200 employees at Hudson and Mercer fairly during the process of retiring the existing units.”

“These plants have played a critical role in powering the growth and economic expansion of New Jersey and PSEG is grateful to our employees who have played a part in building and running them for the past 50 years,” said Levis. “We will work with our union and PSEG leadership to ensure that the plants continue to operate safely through their retirement dates and to place as many employees as possible within PSEG’s family of companies.”

PSEG Power is building a new $600 million gas-fired plant in Sewaren, in Middlesex County, as well as new plants in Connecticut and Maryland.

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