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Allegheny County’s last coal-fired power plant is closing

Reid R. Frazier
StateImpact Pennsylvania

The last coal-fired power plant in Allegheny County is closing. Cheswick Generating Station’s last day of power generation was March 31.

Cheswick’s parent company, GenOn, announced it was closing the Springdale, Pa. plant last year, citing market conditions, environmental rules and an inability to compete with other types of generation. It joins hundreds of other coal plants around the country that have been replaced by cheaper power sources, like natural gas and renewables.

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This week, the 565-megawatt plant, commissioned in 1970, was transferred to its new owner, Charah Solutions, a Kentucky company that specializes in coal plant demolition. Vice President of Operations Scott Reschly says after demolition, the company will redevelop the site.

There’s been interest around renewable energy, such as battery storage-type of applications. There’s been some logistical interest for using the river access,” Reschly said.

Reschly says the location’s access to the Allegheny River and existing connection to the electrical grid make it an attractive site for an industrial or renewable energy project. But he says his company is open to other end uses.

(We’ve) really been focused around industrial and energy uses so far. But that doesn’t mean other things may not come to come to mind over the next six to 12 months.”

In total, the closure will result in 60 layoffs.

Reschly said some of those employees will be brought in to work on the demolition, which will include removing asbestos, recycling metals like copper and steel on the site, and the likely implosion of a 700-foot smokestack.

We will eventually, of course, have to bring that stack down and it will require a lot of planning, a lot of interface with the community and other entities to make sure that there’s no disruption,” Reschly said. “Obviously, you’ve got to take into account environmental compliance. We want to make sure there’s no dusting and those kind of things. So (there will be) a lot of planning going into how we bring that stack down.”

The plant, one of the county’s top sources of pollution, had been subject to legal disputes over air andwater pollution. EPA data showed the plant emitted 608,000 tons of carbon dioxide in 2020, the equivalent of 129,000 cars on the road.

The Sierra Club brought legal action in 2019 against the company for releasing hot water into the Allegheny River. The Sierra Club also sued the plant in 2018 for turning off its pollution controls at certain times of day. In 2020, a federal court overturned a “gaping loophole” in state pollution rules that allowed the plant to do so.

Charah will also remediate a nearby coal ash landfill affiliated with the plant and continue to maintain the plant’s wastewater treatment plant.

This story is produced in partnership with StateImpact Pennsylvania, a collaboration among WESA, The Allegheny Front, WITF and WHYY.

Reid R. Frazier covers energy for The Allegheny Front. His work has taken him as far away as Texas and Louisiana to report on the petrochemical industry and as close to home as Greene County, Pennsylvania to cover the shale gas boom. His award-winning work has also aired on NPR, Marketplace and other outlets. Reid is currently contributing to StateImpact Pennsylvania, a collaboration among The Allegheny Front, WESA, WITF and WHYY covering the Commonwealth's energy economy. Email: