Lawmakers Question PJM About Plant Closings in Light of Request
to Conserve Power
Washington PA Observer Reporter
14 January 2014
By Bob Niedbala, Staff Writer
PJM Interconnection’s determination last fall that the closings of
the Hatfield’s Ferry and Mitchell power stations would have no
impact on the electrical grid’s reliability is being questioned by
two local lawmakers in light of the grid operator’s request during
last week’s cold snap for people to conserve power.
PJM’s analysis regarding the plant closings was questioned by
state Rep. Pam Snyder, D-Jefferson, and state Sen. Tim Solobay,
D-Canonsburg, in letters sent Tuesday to PJM and the state Public
“PJM officials assured the public during hearings related to local
plant closings that the grid would have enough electricity to
reliably meet demand,” the lawmakers said in their letter.
“Based on the most recent events, it appears that the PJM needs to
re-evaluate,” the letter said. “Local families need to be assured
that they will have electricity when temperatures reach record
lows or record highs.”
FirstEnergy announced in July it would close the two coal-fired
plants, citing weak demand, low prices and the costs of complying
with environmental regulations.
PJM, which ensures the reliability of the electric grid in 13
states and the District of Columbia, reviewed the shutdowns and
determined they would create no problems with system reliability.
The plants closed in October.
During last week’s sub-zero temperatures, however, PJM asked the
public to conserve electricity. This came despite assurances last
fall that the closure of the two power plants would not affect the
reliability of the grid, the lawmakers said.
The request to conserve power raises new questions about last
year’s assessment of FirstEnergy’s closure plans, they said.
While temperatures in the region hit record lows Jan. 6 and 7,
they were not unprecedented or unforeseen, the lawmakers said.
Southwestern Pennsylvania experienced similar colder weather in
the early 1990s, sparking concerns then about power usage.
“(We) continue to have reason to be gravely concerned about the
future of electricity generation and reliability for our
constituents,” the lawmakers said, asking for a re-evaluation of
the grid in light of the plant closings and plans for future
coal-fired plant shutdowns.
“It is our position that PJM must answer to the public, to those
380 employees and their families affected by the closure, to those
consumers that were asked to conserve their electricity in fear
that they may be left without any, and to all those that worked
diligently for months trying to convey their serious concerns on
the effect the closures could have on the power grid and the
dependability of electricity in our area,” the letter said.
Paula DuPont-Kidd, PJM spokeswoman, said PJM had not yet received
the letter and so could not offer a response.
However, the closing of the plants was not a factor in the
situation that developed last week that resulted in PJM asking
customers to conserve power, she said. PJM knew the two plants
were closed and would not be available to provide electricity and
had found replacements for that power, she said.
Sub-zero temperatures throughout much of the eastern United States
last week had driven up electric demand to record levels, PJM said
in asking the public to conserve. The extreme cold also resulted
in a number of outages at power plants. Despite the problems, PJM
later concluded, the system was able to meet power demand without