FirstEnergy, PJM and state officials have been playing a confusing game of life or death with these plants for months now.
Pennsylvania legislators and regulators have been raising a ruckus, giving plant employees false hope that they could find a way to keep the plants open. Ultimately, all this posturing was only harmful to the actual working men and women at the plants, who have been buoyed along on false hopes, and may have squandered valuable time in securing alternative employment or training for other jobs. Very sad.
At least nobody is playing FirstEnergy's plant closure game this time though. Last time, FirstEnergy scored some very valuable reliability must run contracts to keep plants slated for closure open until new transmission could be built. However, in the end, those plants will close too, and when they do FirstEnergy has nothing to offer to loyal employees. The company simply doesn't care.
Of course we shouldn't be surprised. PJM is a transmission operating and building cartel. Its annual planning is based on a Regional Transmission Expansion Plan (RTEP). Transmission is all PJM does, therefore when the only tool PJM has is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. While many uninformed people will blame some imaginary "war on coal," they'd be more effective pointing the finger at the pro-transmission lobby that is PJM. Pay attention to PJM's new transmission project proposal window to find out why FirstEnergy decided to close these plants and replace them with transmission from other generators. As PJM continues to expand, generation is increasingly centralized at generators located farther and farther from load. This isn't economic or reliable, but it puts money in the pockets of transmission owners, developers and suppliers. This is the REAL enemy that closed Mitchell and Hatfield's Ferry.
So, FirstEnergy employees being kicked to the curb can develop new careers in transmission far from home, or they can invest in new opportunities in distributed generation in their own communities and join with the consumers opposing unnecessary transmission. Whatever they choose, we wish them well.