For more than 90 years, the coal-fired power plant in Glen Lyn, Va., has been churning out electricity and contributing to local prosperity. Of late, it has generated nearly a quarter of the revenue for the $1 million budget of the town.
Yet when the plant ultimately shuts down to comply with new federal air pollution regulations by the end of 2014, says Town Manager Howard Spencer, so too might the community of 200.
"If the town lost all of that revenue," he says, "we would struggle to even continue to be incorporated."
An Associated Press analysis has found that more than 32 mostly coal-fired power plants in a dozen states will be forced to close because of the new, more stringent regulations. Another 36 plants are at risk of closing.
No lights will go dark. But the Environmental Protection Agency has estimated that 14.7 gigawatts â¿¿ enough power for more than 11 million households â¿¿ will be retired from the power grid in the 2014-15 period when the rules take effect. One rule curbs air pollution in states downwind from dirty power plants. Another sets first standards for mercury and other toxic pollutants from smokestacks.
The effect is greatest in the Midwest and in coal belt states such as Virginia and West Virginia, where dozens of units are likely to shut down.
Take Giles County, where American Electric Power's Glen Lyn plant is located, and where 44 jobs are on the line.
County Administrator Chris McKlarney worries about the $600,000 tax-revenue hit his $40 million budget will take. But that's just one concern involving a plant and workers whose community contribution is "hard to quantify."
"They've done so much donation-wise for local causes ... And they're really good people working there," he said. "They're coaches in Little League sports, involved in the Parent-Teacher Organization â¿¿ you lose those kind of people, it's tough."