Homer City Power Plant is Closing
The coal power plant in Homer City, Indiana County off Route 22 is closing. It will be shutting down over the next three months. Two other plants will also be closing in Indiana and Armstrong counties. The plant is closing due to the low cost of natural gas, an increase in cost of the coal supply, unseasonably warm winters, and tightening environmental regulations. This is a complete 180 on what was announced last year. Last year, they announced that it would remain open, but officials have since decided to close it down. In the last two decades, 60 coal fired power plants have closed in Pennsylvania. The Homer City plant is the largest in capacity, but it is not the most productive in the state.
Armstrong County has one of the most productive plants for power generation. Homer City was not a top 10 power generator in Pennsylvania in 2021 because it was only operating at 20 percent capacity. It created 4.4 megawatts in 2021 and 3.3 megawatts in 2022. Before the pandemic, it created 6.8 megawatts. It also had a reduction in coal usage from 538 million tons last year to 470 million tons. According to NRG Energy of Houston, layoffs will start around July 1.
There could be more factors causing the plant to close other than environmental regulations. Plants are also closing at the Conemaugh Generating Station in Indiana County and Keystone in Armstrong County. It was announced in 2021 that the plants would be idled by 2028 due to tougher regulations on disposal of toxic coal ash that results from the plant creating steam to turn the electric producing turbines. Talon Energy Corp, from The Woodlands, Texas owns 22 percent of the Conemaugh plant and 12 percent of the Keystone plant. Due to shifting policies and attitudes, it is looking to stop being an owner in coal-fired plants. Plants could also be closing because of an increase in maintenance costs and age. Both Keystone and Conemaugh have been operating for at least 52 years, which is past the national average of operations of these types of plants. The closing of the plants could also be because the Environmental Protection Agency denied a request from Conemaugh to dump coal ash into unlined impoundments without management.
Carbon taxes are also problematic for power plants. Penalties would be created for power plant owners based on the amount of pollution released under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. Homer would not be able to plan long term due to this. Pennsylvania is one of 11 states that is trying to cap and reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. Opponents of this are fighting Pennsylvania in the courts. Opponents include republican lawmakers, coal producers, power plant operators, and labor unions. The Pennsylvania Coal Alliance, a coalition of coal producers and mine equipment suppliers, blames the closure of Homer City on poor decision making and the threat of the state imposing a carbon tax.
The environmental organization Clean Power PA claims the power plant is closing due to a shift in the energy market away from coal to renewable energy and fracked gas. Currently though, renewable energy is not good enough to replace fossil fuels completely. Solar and wind turbines in Cambria and Somerset Counties only made 3.6 million megawatts of power compared to 126 million megawatts of power generated by coal.
The future of Homer City is still unknown. Indiana County officials are working with the Homer Generation team to figure out redevelopment opportunities. The county was awarded a grant of $1.5 million from the Commonwealth Financing Authority’s Pipeline Investment Program to extend a line of natural gas to the county’s Route 119 business park, which is less than two miles from the site of the plant. The plant could then be converted to a natural gas operated plant, but that would be expensive. The site would also need to be analyzed by an engineer for viability. This plant would take years, so a decision has not been made.
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