A New Day for Hatfield’s Ferry?
Washington PA Observer-Reporter
17 January 2016
The Hatfield’s Ferry power plant in Greene County’s Monongahela
Township closed a little more than two years ago. Since that time,
nothing has been said about the plant’s possible fate.
One could only wonder at the time it locked its doors whether one
day it again would be used to generate electrical power. Or,
perhaps, it would provide a home for another business or industry.
Or it would simply face the wrecking ball, with the land it now
occupies becoming vacant.
With that thought in mind, we were glad to hear last week
FirstEnergy Corp., the plant’s owner, is at least considering the
possibility of restarting the plant.
A FirstEnergy spokeswoman said the company is conducting a study
to determine whether it would be feasible for the plant to be
reborn as a coal-burning facility, as it was before it closed, or
that it could get a new start by burning a combination of coal and
natural gas, or burning only natural gas.
The company asked PJM Interconnection, which operates the region’s
electrical grid, to preserve its rights to offer power to the grid
produced at Hatfield’s Ferry through mid-2019. This would give
FirstEnergy time to evaluate its options.
The company closed the 1,710-megawatt coal-fired plant in October
2013, citing a weak demand for electricity, low electricity prices
and the costs of bringing it, and other coal-fired plants, into
compliance with environmental regulations.
Since that time, the spokeswoman said, the company has observed
positive movement in market and capacity conditions, though not
enough yet to warrant reopening a closed plant such as Hatfield’s
It was difficult for Greene County to see the plant close, not
only for the loss of the 174 jobs, but also for its portents about
the future of coal, one of Greene’s most important industries.
On top of that, FirstEnergy’s predecessor, Allegheny Energy, had
only four years earlier spent more than $650 million to install
scrubbers at the plant to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions. Many
hoped and believed the scrubbers would add many more years of life
to the plant.
In announcing the plant’s closing, FirstEnergy noted much more
would have to be spent to bring the plant into compliance with new
and proposed environmental regulations that are more stringent. It
also said it had considered retrofitting the plant to burn both
natural gas and coal but that, too, was cost prohibitive. It is
interesting to note that Allegheny Power many years earlier had
proposed burning a mixture of coal and natural gas at Hatfield’s
Ferry. The sole reason it gave then was to reduce emissions.
While it’s true the 147-acre plant site could be reused by other
industries, we believe, as it now stands, it is simply ideal for a
power plant. The property has access to the river and barge
transportation, has the water needed for power plant processes
thanks to its proximity to the river, a direct link to the
electric grid and good access to a state highway. It also is our
hope that, if the plant is revived, that it looks toward the
future of energy and burns a combination of coal and natural gas,
or goes entirely toward natural gas, which burns more cleanly than
We’re sure FirstEnergy will have to consider many more factors
than these in deciding what to do with the plant, and hope if
another power plant is not the final choice for the property, the
company will at least work with local officials in finding another
use for it.