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Zimmer, Miami Fort power plants to close by 2027

Posted at 1:59 PM, Sep 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-29 20:24:03-04

Zimmer and Miami Fort power plants will close by the end of 2027, according to Vistra Energy Corp.

The company plans to close its entire Midwest coal fleet between 2025 and 2027, according to spokeswoman Meranda Cohn. That includes the Zimmer plant in Moscow and the Miami Fort plant in North Bend. Cohn said the plants have about 300 employees combined.

Newtown Administrator Andrew Gephardt said the impact of the closure will depend on how quickly the plant's property tax valuation changes between now and 2027.

"If it remains constant in the next five years or so, it will give the village more time to make the eventual tough decisions," he said.

The closure is part of a plan to accelerate the development of cleaner-burning power plants by the Texas-based company that acquired Miami Fort and Zimmer as part of a 2018 merger.

"The advance notice of these retirements provides us with ample time to work with our impacted employees and communities to ease the impact of the closures," Vistra Chief Operating Officer Jim Burke said in a press release.

The release said the plants are "economically challenged" and the decision to close them was "prompted by upcoming Environmental Protection Agency filing deadlines, which require either significant capital expenditures for compliance or retirement declarations."

Vistra told the EPA in January that its Cincinnati-area plants could be forced into early retirement if the EPA didn't alter rules requiring reduced mercury emissions at coal-burning plants. The EPA subsequently eliminated mercury restrictions imposed by the Obama administration, but the change was not enough to keep the plants alive.

The closure announcement also comes just four months after U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott approved a consent decree to settle more than a decade of pollution violations with the EPA at the Zimmer Power Plant.

The settlement called for Vistra to pay a civil penalty of $600,000 to the U.S. Justice Department and spend $45,000 on energy-efficient lighting at a nearby school.

In August, Vistra spokeswoman Jenny Lyon told WCPO "the penalty has been paid" but the school project was "still being evaluated." Lyon also gave little inkling that a plant closure announcement was in the offing.

"Zimmer Power Plant continues full-time operation providing reliable affordable power for Ohio," she wrote. "However, coal generation in Ohio and across the U.S. remains challenged. Vistra is constantly evaluating the financial performance of our power plants."