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The West Virginia Coal Forum is encouraged by news that a major power company will be upgrading its facilities to preserve coal-fired electric power generation.

First Energy announced Wednesday that the company will be able to make necessary improvements to its facilities to comply with federal standards and continue to use coal, thanks to action taken by the West Virginia Legislature during the 2016 session.

“We at the Coal Forum extend a huge thank you to the Legislature for passing the Modernization and Improvement Plan act,” said Chris Hamilton, co-chairman of the Coal Forum, which is an organization representing business and labor in the coal industry. “Passage of this legislation is a testament to the legislative leadership’s commitment to doing whatever is necessary to preserve coal-fired electricity in West Virginia. First Energy’s announcement is proof that good legislation can make a big impact in just a short amount of time.”

The MIP encourages utilities to upgrade coal-fired power plants to support West Virginia's coal industry while helping to ensure reliable electricity generation remains in the state. The legislation went into effect in June.

“We are encouraged by First Energy’s announcement, because it means they value coal as a power source and, by extension, the coal miners who produce this valuable resource,” said Fred Tucker, Coal Forum co-chairman. “In these difficult times for our industry, good news like this gives us hope.”

Hamilton added that First Energy’s commitment to using coal should bring some optimism to miners who remain committed to their industry.

“We have leadership at the Legislature that has made a commitment to helping coal mining families return to the work they love instead of applying for unemployment or retraining benefits,” Hamilton said. 

In its announcement, First Energy said that as part of the company’s long-standing commitment to sustainability, it is making emissions control investments at Harrison and Fort Martin that allow the plants to meet increasingly stringent environmental regulations. These investments will allow the plants to continue generating low-emitting and affordable electricity, providing well-paying jobs, and contributing significant tax income to surrounding communities.

First Energy said the Modernization and Improvement Plan (MIP) will help Harrison and Fort Martin achieve ongoing compliance with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) and Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR).  It will help Harrison and Fort Martin achieve ongoing compliance with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) and Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) II requirements.