DPL has proposed closing its Stuart power station on the Ohio River (pictured here) by mid-2018. Also identified for closure: the company’s Killen station. DAYTON BUSINESS CONTRIBUTED

Possible DPL coal plant closures has Ohio county on edge

A proposal by Dayton Power and Light Co. to close two power plants in a rural Southern Ohio county has leaders of small communities on both sides of the Ohio River concerned.

In a late January filing with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, DP&L announced its intention to close the Adams County power-generation plants in a proposed settlement to its electric security plan — an overall plan for conducting business in a way that’s meant to be beneficial to both the utility and its customers.

POWER PLANS: DP&L considers closure of two plants.

“There’s a huge financial impact headed our way, and frankly, it doesn’t feel like our concerns are being heard, in either Dayton or Columbus,” Michael Pell, president of First State Bank in Winchester, Ohio, said.

The DP&L filing came after months of rumors that the utility was considering closing the plants.

In November, a DP&L spokeswoman sent an email to Adams County and Northern Kentucky media, saying, “DP&L is involved in ongoing discussions in an effort to resolve the company’s market-driven financial challenges. In some of these discussions, various parties have raised the subject of the closure of the Killen and Stuart (power) stations.”

EYES IN THE SKY: From above, DP&L copters inspect for damage

The filing also came years into what has been seen as a challenging environment for coal.

The Obama administration put forward its plan for reducing national dependency on coal, called the Clean Power Plan, but the plan is being contested in courts, and the new Trump administration is seen as more open to coal usage.

“We realize the industry may be moving away from coal,” Pell said.

RELATED: Citing financial ‘threats,’ DP&L seeks new charges

Still, some local leaders say DP&L’s PUCO filing was “absolutely” a surprise.

“Our community did not become aware of this until the local IBEW (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union) happened to be revealing in a filing for the PUCO that they alerted their employees in the plant,” Pell said. “And then the information made its way through the community. That was back in November.”

The two power generation stations — known as the Killen and Stuart stations — have been operated since the 1970s.

In mid-February, a group of Adams County residents filed a motion against the closure plan with the PUCO, calling the plan “self-serving” and “disastrous.” A DP&L spokeswoman has said the company will not oppose that group’s request to intervene in the case.

GENERATING POWER — AND TAXES

The plants generate more than power. They generate about $9 million annually in property taxes to the county and local entities, the group — calling itself “Citizens to Protect DP&L Jobs — told the PUCO.

A spokeswoman for DP&L declined an immediate interview, saying company leaders may have more to say once the PUCO has heard its proposal regarding the Adams County plants.

SOCIAL MEDIA: Follow Business Writer Thomas Gnau on Twitter.

The plants have about 490 employees, with an additional 200 contracting employees, Pell estimates. He estimates that the plants have an annual payroll of more than $30 million.

DP&L owns 5,500 acres in Adams County, Pell said, controlling seven miles of Ohio River-facing property.

Pell identified the community’s three main goals. The primary objective: Postpone the plant closures for “five to 10 years.” Establish a “decommissioning plan” that ensures that the county isn’t left with an “environmental mess.”

“We’re feeling like they’re going to be a chain on the front gate, and my grandchildren will have to drive past this for eternity,” Pell said.

The third goal: Get in place “infrastructure” that will help create new local jobs.

Kent Gulley, a former DP&L employee, as well as a business owner and land owner in Adams County, wants to enlist the help of the Sierra Club, environmental advocates who oppose coal reliance.

“I and several others are a little disappointed that the Sierra Club has signed off because they had never included us in the loop to help us out,” Gulley said.

He believes the Sierra Club has been helpful to other communities in the past, and it can be helpful to Adams County.

Added Gulley: “We’re not a group of people who are sitting there wanting to deny clean air or environment to anyone. We understand that coal’s future is limited. We all want clean air for our kids and grandkids.”

Dan Sawmiller is the senior campaign representative for the Sierra Club’s “Beyond Coal” campaign. He emphasized that the Sierra Club has not signed off on the DP&L plant-closing proposal to the PUCO, but the organization is a party to DP&L’s overall ESP case.

The club does support a key idea mentioned in a case stipulation before the PUCO: moving $2 million of DP&L “shareholder money” to affected communities in Adams County.

“There is no certainty in this plan about the future of those generation facilities,” he said.

And Sawmiller acknowledges that the Sierra Club supports moving beyond coal in Ohio. But the organization did not demand that these plants shut down by June 2018, he added.

Said Sawmiller: “We do want to see the communities treated fairly.”

Asked if the Sierra Club would support postponing the plant closures, Sawmiller declined to comment, but he did say: “We support moving beyond coal in a reasonable fashion, and we agree the communities need a fair opportunity to transition.”

“We regard ourselves as allies of the communities (in Adams County),” he said.

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