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Clermont County power plant to close next May, ahead of schedule

Zimmer will be sixth coal plant retired since 2013
Maryland plans to appeal EPA denial of emissions petition
Posted at 3:22 PM, Jul 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-22 08:38:13-04

MOSCOW, Ohio — The William H. Zimmer Power Station in Moscow, Ohio, will close earlier than expected next May because it's unable to sell electricity at a high enough rate to make a profit, owner Vistra Corp. announced Monday.

The Texas-based utility company previously announced the 150-employee plant would close by 2027, but that was before it failed to secure “capacity revenues” in the latest auction held by PJM, operator of the electric power grid that Zimmer sells into.

"The PJM capacity revenues are critical to Zimmer, and unfortunately, without them, the plant simply doesn't make money," said Curt Morgan, CEO of Vistra. "This decision did not come easy. Our people work hard every single day to provide power to Ohioans and have done a number of things over the past few years to sustain the life of the plant and improve its economics. But despite their best efforts, the disappointing auction results, along with other challenging factors, make continued economic operation impossible. We're left with a difficult but necessary decision of retiring the plant."

Vistra said it will “evaluate the Zimmer site for potential investments in renewables or grid-scale battery storage, utilizing existing infrastructure.” It’s not clear what impact those investments would have on saving some of the plant’s 150 jobs.

Moscow Village Administrator Andrew Gephardt hopes some jobs can be preserved at the plant, but he expects a reduction in future tax revenue caused by the closure and demolition of the massive structure.

“We’re trying to be pro-active with what’s going to happen,” Gephardt said. Starting next month, Moscow will “charge for sewer and garbage pick-up in the village, which prior to now was free. Given the already devaluing of the plant and certainly the future devaluations coming, we thought this was a good time to start with that. Other cost-saving methods, anywhere we can find it, we’ve been looking at.”

Zimmer will be the sixth coal-burning power plant in our region to close since 2013, a trend that’s driven by the increasing cost of complying with air-pollution rules and cheaper energy sources like natural gas.

The closures are the subject of a year-long series of report by the WCPO 9 I-Team, Closed and Undisclosed. So far, the series has exposed mishaps during demolition and explore the threat of future pollution from coal ash ponds where arsenic, lead and other contaminants are leaching into nearby groundwater.

In 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency settled more than a decade of pollution violations at the Zimmer plant for $600,000 in fines.

Cincinnati Gas & Electric Co. built the 1,300-megawatt plant in 1991. CG&E’s parent company, Duke Energy Corp. sold it in 2018.

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