Stephanie Walton, a spokeswoman for First Energy, which once had four coal-fired plants in Pennsylvania, said the company is down to one: Bruce Mansfield in Shippingport in the far western part of the state. Walton said that First Energy is evaluating all its plants over the next 18 months.“That could mean deactivating, or retiring plants,” Walton said of the evaluation, which she noted is the result of “challenges with the competitive market.” Bruce Mansfield uses seven millions tons of coal a year and employs 350 people.As President Trump last week announced that he was ending what he deemed President Barack Obama’s “war on coal,” there was quieter news with perhaps more direct impact on Pennsylvania’s coal industry and environment.
As part of that effort, the state Department of Environmental Protection is reviewing permitting for fracking and other unconventional natural gas sites and operations.
Charles Mc Phedran, an attorney with Earthjustice, a nonprofit environmental law group, said he, too, is concerned about the rise of methane.
“With or without that rule, we are on our way to meeting it.” Peter De Carlo agrees.
He’s an assistant professor who studies atmospheric chemistry in Drexel’s College of Engineering and College of Arts and Sciences and has looked at the impact of the Marcellus Shale.
Obama introduced the plan but it never went into effect because of a court challenge.
“Pennsylvania is on the path to meeting the clean power plan because of natural gas,” Hess said.
Walton said current economic conditions have nothing to do with Obama’s regulations, although she noted that his administration’s rules have hurt the industry in the past.
Other industry observers agree that the future for coal appears bleak.
The number of coal mining jobs plunged 39 percent over the last five years, from 8,665 workers to 5,324, according to the U. But the switch to natural gas is being watched with caution by environmentalists and scientists. Methane can be a byproduct of exploration, extraction and transport associated with unconventional natural gas extraction, which includes hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” Trump is also seeking to rewrite rules on methane emissions.
Methane exists in much smaller amounts in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, but is much more efficient in terms of trapping heat.
The new CPV Fairview Energy Center will power more than a million homes by 2020, producing far fewer greenhouse gases than would a coal-fired plant.