AKRON, Ohio (Legal Newsline) - FirstEnergy Corp. has announced a subsidiary will close three power plants in neighboring West Virginia.

The closing is caused by new Environmental Protection Agency standards. This announcement prompted immediate criticism of the EPA by the state's governor.

First Energy's Monongahela Power Company subsidiary will phase out three older coal-fired power plants by Sept. 1. The company said the decision to close the plants is "based on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, which were recently finalized, and other environmental regulations."

According to the announcement, MPC recently completed a yearlong study of some of its coal-fired units in relation to the potential impact of the new environmental regulations. The company determined that additional investments to implement the MATS and other environmental rules made the plants too costly.

"The high cost to implement MATS and other environmental rules is the reason these Mon Power plants are being retired," said James R. Haney, regional president of Mon Power and president of West Virginia Operations for FirstEnergy.

The same day the closings were announced Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, a Democrat, issued a statement critical of the EPA and its policies.

"This is another example of how the EPA is costing us good jobs in West Virginia and throughout Appalachia," he said. "When the EPA adopts regulations they continue to fail to take into account the real-life effects these rules have on hard working Americans like those who have dedicated themselves to First Energy at the West Virginia locations.

"I urge the EPA to respectfully and accurately review the entire impact of their decisions -- from environmental to economical -- because individuals, families and communities are forever changed by their short-sighted decisions."

First Energy said in its communication that the number of affected employees could be less than 105. It said some will be considered for jobs at other locations. The company will provide severance benefits to some employees and those eligible for retirement will be provided an additional benefit.

"The EPA's agenda with their regulations is to close as many coal-fired power plants as they can," said Steven Hayward, Resident Scholar in Energy and Environment at the American Enterprise Institute. "They say these are health benefits. But their own regulatory impact assessment says there are zero health benefits for reducing mercury itself. So why are they doing it? Because environmentalists hate coal!"

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