By DAVE MCMILLION
8:35 PM EDT, March 15, 2012
A FirstEnergy spokesman is assuring government officials that the electric company will not “walk away” from the R. Paul Smith Power Station in Williamsport once the facility closes late this summer.
Mark Durbin also said the power station will be secured after the plant closes, but he said details of how that will be accomplished are still being worked out.
“We have an obligation to maintain (the site) and make sure it’s secure,” Durbin said in a telephone interview Thursday evening.
Beyond that, it’s unclear if the plant will be torn down, Durbin said.
Durbin’s comments came after officials from FirstEnergy, the town of Williamsport and representatives of Maryland’s two U.S. senators met at Williamsport Town Hall Thursday afternoon to talk about the plant closure.
FirstEnergy announced in January that the plant along the Potomac River will be closed on Sept. 1.
Town Mayor James G. McCleaf II, who was among the officials at the meeting, has said that he did not want the plant to become an eyesore like the former Municipal Electric Light Plant in Hagerstown.
After the meeting, McCleaf said he wasn’t completely satisfied with the response, but he appreciated FirstEnergy officials being upfront about what they do know about the planned closing of the plant.
“We’ll see what happens,” McCleaf said.
FirstEnergy officials will be working to retire the plant and decommission the facility, according to Durbin, who did not attend the meeting, and Roger J. Heasley, external affairs director for FirstEnergy, who did.
The decommissioning process involves working with regulatory agencies as part of the process of halting power-generating operations at the plant, said Anne M. Grealy, director of federal regulatory affairs for FirstEnergy, who also was present at the meeting.
Durbin said tearing down the station is an option, but razing the facility is not a priority now for FirstEnergy.
Also attending the meeting was Robin Summerfield, a representative for U.S. Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, D-Md.; Julianna Albowicz, a representative for U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., and Williamsport Town Clerk Donnie Stotelmyer.
McCleaf and Stotelmyer also asked Grealy and Heasley about FirstEnergy land along the Potomac River that the town leases from the company as part of Riverbottom Park.
The town, which is planning to refurbish a boat dock in the park and build a launch for smaller craft, has obtained a $200,000 grant through the Maryland Department of Natural Resources for the work, Stotelmyer said.
The DNR is working with the town on possibly getting another $200,000 federal grant for the work, he said. As part of that grant process, DNR officials have said they would like the town to obtain a 30-year lease arrangement for the FirstEnergy land, Stotelmyer said.
“You hold the golden egg,” Stotelmyer told the utility officials.
Heasley said FirstEnergy would not be able to enter into a 30-year lease agreement with the town, but would be able to lease the land to the town on a year-to-year basis.
Stotelmyer said after the meeting that he would try to work with the DNR to see if there is a way to pursue the second grant without a 30-year lease on the FirstEnergy property.
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