Workers at the W.H. Sammis coal-fired power plant have been notified that a mass layoff will begin “sometime between March 14, 2023, and April 14, 2023.”
The announcement was made public through a letter Energy Harbor Corp., owner of the plant, sent to the Ohio Department of Job & Family Services, as required under the state’s Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act. Terminations will occur on a rolling basis as the facility is phased down, with all of the plant’s 140 employees expected to be laid off by July 15, 2023. All losses of employment are expected to be permanent, with any bumping rights governed by the collective bargaining agreement with the facility and Local 457 of the Utility Workers Union of America.
The W.H. Sammis site includes more than 1,700 MW of generating capacity, supplied by three coal units (Units 5–7 totaling 1,694 MW) and 12.5 MW of diesel capacity (Units SAA, B1–B4). The plant is located along the Ohio River off of Ohio State Route 7 (SR-7) near Stratton.
The site was first developed by Ohio Edison, which began work on Unit 1 in May 1956. By 1962, the company had built four 170-MW units on the property, which is named after former Ohio Edison President and CEO Walter H. Sammis. Units 5–7 were added in 1967, 1969, and 1971, respectively. Notably, SR-7 includes a four-lane tunnel that was constructed in 1982, which goes under the plant’s baghouse structure (see video below).
FirstEnergy took over operation of the plant after Ohio Edison merged with Centerior in 1997. In February 2020, FirstEnergy Solutions completed a chapter 11 restructuring process and emerged as Energy Harbor, which is how it took ownership.
Energy Harbor announced a transition plan in March 2022, which it anticipated would get the company out of the fossil business this year. In addition to closing W.H. Sammis, Energy Harbor has also filed deactivation notices with PJM Interconnection for Pleasants Power Station Units 1 and 2, located in Willow Island, West Virginia. Those coal units have a combined capacity of 1,368 MW. Energy Harbor also plans to divest other non–core, ancillary properties related to its fossil business.
“Retiring the fossil-fueled plants is a difficult but necessary strategic business decision critical to the continued transformation of our company. I am grateful for the dedication and work ethic of our employees as well as the strong support shown by their union leaders and the communities where the plants are located,” David Hamilton, executive vice president, Chief Operating Officer, and Chief Nuclear Officer of Energy Harbor, said in a statement announcing the transition plan. Energy Harbor’s plan was “to become a 100% carbon free, energy infrastructure and supply company in 2023.” Among the carbon-free assets in its generation fleet are four nuclear reactors: two at its Beaver Valley site, and one each at the Perry and Davis-Besse facilities.
However, the Pleasants coal plant may have a lifeline. On Jan. 11, WTAP 5, an NBC television affiliate in Parkersburg, West Virginia, reported that Energy Harbor will lease the Pleasants plant to Energy Transition and Environmental Management (ETEM) under a short-term agreement. Pleasants County Commissioner Jay Powell explained to the station’s reporter that ETEM is looking for a long-term owner to take over within a year.
—Aaron Larson is POWER’s executive editor (@AaronL_Power, @POWERmagazine).