Ohio-based FirstEnergy Corp. last week asked a district court for additional time to decide whether to install expensive pollution controls or close two coal-fired units at its R.E. Burger Plant in Shadyside.

Under the terms of a consent decree related to the company’s 2005 New Source Review settlement—and absent an extension—FirstEnergy was required to make a decision by Dec. 31, 2008, to either install scrubbers and other environmental equipment for Burger Units 4 and 5, repower the units, or commit to shutting them down in the next two years. The company yesterday filed a motion with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, requesting an additional 105 days to make the decision.

“We are asking the Court for an extension, which would provide us with more time—and hopefully more economic and regulatory clarity—to make this important decision,” said Charles D. Lasky, FirstEnergy’s vice president of fossil operations. If the court does not grant the motion for an extension, the company said it would elect to shut down Burger Units 4 and 5 under the terms of the consent decree.

The Burger Plant, which employs 102 people, first came online in 1944; additional units were completed in the 1950s. Units 4 and 5 today provide a combined 312 MW of load-following power. A peaking unit rated at 94 MW remains in operation at the plant, but the company would also have to decide whether to continue operating it if the extension is not granted.

A spokesperson had told the Wheeling Intelligencerearlier in December that the company would face “massive expenses” for the implementation of a new scrubber stack, natural gas power, and other upgrades to bring the facility in line with federal standards.

Currently, 86% of the state’s power is produced from coal. But Ohio law contains an alternative energy portfolio standard that requires that 25% of electricity sold by Ohio’s electric distribution utilities or electric services companies be generated from alternative energy sources by 2025. At least half of this power must come from renewable energy sources, with a minimum of 0.5% coming from solar resources. One-half of the renewable energy facilities must be located in Ohio.

Sources: FirstEnergy Corp.,Wheeling Intelligencer, Public Utilities Commission of Ohio