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Pollution plan may have big impact in Pennsylvania

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 2, 2014 at 3:44 pm •  Published: June 2, 2014

PITTSBURGH (AP) — The sweeping Obama administration plan to limit carbon dioxide pollution from electric power plants could have significant impacts on Pennsylvania's air quality as well as its industries, experts said Monday.

Gov. Tom Corbett was critical of the plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming, but one major utility said the reductions appear to be doable.

The plan, announced Monday, gives each state some flexibility in how it makes significant reductions in carbon emissions by 2030. About 40 percent of Pennsylvania's electricity comes from about 30 major coal-fired power plants, and the state is also the fourth-leading producer of coal in the nation.

The proposal could bring much cleaner air to Pennsylvania, but coal-fired power plants would be forced to spend far more money on reducing pollution.

One major energy company that operates in Pennsylvania was cautiously optimistic about the proposal.

"FirstEnergy believes it is in a strong position to meet the requirements in the proposed rule" through investments in emissions controls and plant retirements, said spokeswoman Stephanie Walton. She said FirstEnergy, which is based in Akron, Ohio, is still studying the plan, but had already expected to cut carbon emissions significantly next year.

But coal miners could suffer even if energy companies adapt. Pennsylvania employed about 9,000 coal miners in 2012, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, and those jobs play a vital role in some rural communities.

"Thousands of direct coal industry jobs will be lost," Pennsylvania Coal Alliance CEO John Pippy said in statement.

"Anything that seeks to or has the effect of shutting down coal-fired power plants is an assault on Pennsylvania jobs, consumers, and those citizens who rely upon affordable, abundant domestic energy," Corbett added in a statement.

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