HOMER CITY — An NRG Energy spokesman confirmed that layoffs scheduled next month will affect 43 jobs at the Homer City Generating Station in Center Township.
“NRG Energy operates the Homer City Generation Station, on behalf of its owner,” spokesman Dave Schrader said Thursday afternoon. “The recently announced workforce reductions, while difficult, are necessary to preserve as many jobs as possible while continuing viable and safe operation of the plant.”
The plant is majority-owned by General Electric and had 260 employees.
Schrader said the layoffs are not because of Pennsylvania’s proposed entry into the Northeast Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.
However, it prompted statements from both sides in that issue.
“My heart breaks for the individuals and families impacted,” state Sen. Joe Pittman, R-Indiana, posted on Facebook Thursday afternoon. “This difficult announcement underscores the fragile operations of the plant in an increasingly competitive power generation marketplace. The abundance and low cost of natural gas has made it difficult for coal-fueled plants to compete.”
Pittman hoped Gov. Tom Wolf “reconsiders his decision on RGGI in light of this discouraging news and realizes that his regulations will further devastate the working families of my district.”
But a spokesman for a group of clean energy, business, faith and community leaders said RGGI could provide a significant amount of support “to dislocated workers and communities experiencing impacts from the closure of existing power plants and economic hardship.”
Clean Power PA Coalition spokesman Charlie Lyons said Wolf proposed an Energy Communities Trust Fund that could net a large investment from an anticipated half-billion dollars a year in carbon tax revenue.
“The market shift away from coal is continuing and will inevitably continue, with more of these unfortunate impacts for workers,” Lyons said. “RGGI is an opportunity to get resources to help workers and communities in a way that the power plant operating companies and state/local government will not be able to do when these layoffs and closures continue.”
Meanwhile, down the road from the Homer City Generating Station, the executive vice president of Seward Generation LLC said his company does not believe that it violated the permit condition at issue in a matter with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
However, Jim Panaro said in a statement issued Thursday, “as a matter of compromise,” his company “worked cooperatively with (the) DEP to address its concern.”
Panaro affirmed that his company entered into a consent order and agreement on March 31 with the DEP regarding what the state agency said were outstanding violations to the Air Pollution Control Act at its waste coal-fired, steam electrical generation station in East Wheatfield Township, across the Conemaugh River from Seward.
“The plant is currently operating within all prescribed air permit limits and is fully compliant with its permits,” Panaro said.
The Seward Generation executive said the issue arose when Seward completed mine reclamation projects which contained waste coal with a lower sulfur content.
Confirming what DEP said, Panaro said, “During the time period when Seward used the lower sulfur waste coal, there were no exceedances of ton per year or pound per hour permit limitations for sulfur or any other air pollutant.”