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Lake County waits to learn ultimate fate of FirstEnergy's Perry Nuclear Power Plant

Posted at 6:35 AM, Feb 02, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-02 06:35:20-05

When FirstEnergy announced in 2016 its plan to get out of the competitive generating business which meant severing ties with its subsidiary FirstEnergy Solutions which owns and operates the companies coal and nuclear power plants including Perry Nuclear in Lake County.

The hope was to find a potential buyer but that proved difficult since the Ohio plant as a result of deregulation and market conditions, essentially costs more to operate than it brings in. 

FirstEnergy sought relief at the Federal level and the state level in the form of clean energy tax credits similar to what’s offered in New York and Illinois but those efforts appear to have stalled.

That leaves the very real possibility that FirstEnergy could simply choose to shut down the plant.

“That decision process is still underway, it’s a very difficult process that we’ve spent a long time looking at,” said FirstEnergy Spokesperson Jennifer Young.

"We continue dialogue at the state level, we're hopeful that that dialogue continues and there can be something meaningful coming from that in the future but our decision timeline is very short and we'll need to make some decisions pretty soon."

FirstEnergy Solutions has a roughly $100 million debt payment due on April 2. Last week Moody's Investor Services downgraded the subsidiary citing the likelihood of default.

Waiting to learn that decision are the roughly 700 workers as well as Perry Township and Lake County.

"The impact of the closure of this plant will be significant, it’d be a huge negative impact on our local economy,” said Lake County Commissioner Jerry Cirino. "We would see in my opinion tens of millions of dollars of tax dollars, tax revenue, go away."

“It would be so devastating to our community, we just can’t sit back and watch it happen,” said Cirino.

“I’m an optimist, I’d like to think that we can get the parties that be, FirstEnergy, the state legislature, the governor’s office and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission altogether and figure out how we can avoid this cataclysm because once you shut down a nuclear power plant it’s irreversible,” Cirino said.

At Perry Local Schools they also wait to see what will happen with this community partner that has been a major tax revenue generator as well as employer to many of the families whose kids go to their schools.

“While we're not going to panic we certainly are looking at our operations, ”said Perry Local Schools Superintendent Dr. Jack Thompson.

"We've been tightening our belt so to speak for quite some time. Regardless of what happens with the Perry Nuclear Power Plant it's our belief and optimism that we'll continue to provide an outstanding education to the kids that we serve in this district," he said.

In the meantime, he hopes people outside of Perry learn what a potential closing of the plant could mean.

"Folks need to hear the potential devastating impact economically not only on our school system but on the region should the nuclear power plants in Ohio choose to close their doors because once nuclear power plants close, there's no reopening them.”