Neighbors Rally to Save Pennsylvania Plants

Jim Graf opened the presentation by explaining Pennsylvania’s current energy mix and nuclear power’s contribution.

October 19, 2018

Tax revenue. Reliability. True clean energy. Those all were topics discussed Thursday, Oct. 11, at the Hanover Volunteer Fire Department in Beaver County. Representatives from FirstEnergy Solutions, FirstEnergy and grassroots group BV Matters were on hand to provide information and answer questions about the Beaver Valley Power Station and nuclear generation, and an update on the announced plant closures.

The evening meeting was arranged by the Families for South Side School district, a collection of teachers, school district personnel, parents and local business owners, all of whom are concerned about the announced closures of the Bruce Mansfield and Beaver Valley power plants.

“These plants provide the vast majority of our tax revenue,” said Shannon Turek, event organizer and member of the Families for South Side. “[The school district] annual budget is $23 million, so in real numbers, this company and its power plants play a significant role in our school’s health and future. Closing these facilities would pose a financial dilemma for our district and our community.”

Matt Enos explained the current status of legislative efforts and how residents might be able to assist.

Jim Graf, superintendent Beaver Valley Work Planning, and Rob Lombardo, FirstEnergy External Affairs, spoke to the crowd of about 60, underscoring the company’s local presence. “We’re passionate about what we do for the school district and the community,” said Jim. “This meeting tonight was a result of a conversation I had with Shannon two months ago at the Hookstown Fair, just one example of our dedication to the areas in which we work and live.” The notion of bankruptcy was foremost on everyone’s mind. Rob tackled the question by explaining all the various factors that contributed to FirstEnergy Solutions filing chapter 11.

“Keep in mind, we are talking about one part of the whole corporation,” he said. “Right now, plants in deregulated markets, like Beaver Valley and Bruce Mansfield, are competing against other generation sources. The prolific amount of natural gas has really caused a shift in the market paradigm.” Representatives from BV Matters, an ad-hoc advocacy group formed by several Beaver Valley employees, also had the opportunity to speak and encourage those attending to get involved. Matt Enos, manager, Beaver Valley Outage Management, and Eric Loehlein, manager, Beaver Valley Maintenance, alternated delivering information and answering questions.

Matt highlighted the ongoing activity at the site. “We are about to begin a refueling outage on Unit Two. There will be more than 1,000 people on-site working 24-hours a day, performing thousands of individual tasks. It’s just one great example of the economic benefit nuclear generation creates. And the message is always safety first.”

“We aren’t here as company representatives,” said Eric. “We’re here as two guys who chose nuclear generation as our professions, our careers. This is what we do for a living. So, we share your concern regarding the possible shutdown of the plants, and we will do everything we can to see it doesn’t happen.”

Matt also discussed the environmental benefits nuclear power delivers to the state and the country. “Energy’s carbon footprint is the focal point of state and federal policy discussions. If you want true clean energy, a source with zero carbon emissions that will help Pennsylvania meet its intended goals, then nuclear has to be part of the energy portfolio.”

The South Side Area School District is a small, rural, public school district serving about 1,200 students in Beaver County, Pa. The district encompasses approximately 76 square miles serving the boroughs of Hookstown, Frankfort and Georgetown, and the townships of Greene and Hanover.