GenOn Energy Inc. plans to shut down operations at the West Pittsburg electric power plant in three years.

Mark Baird, a company spokesman, said in an email yesterday that the decision was made to deactivate eight units, including the New Castle area plant, because of the investment required to make the plant compliant with upcoming environmental regulations. Company officials determined the costs of making upgrade could not be sufficiently recouped, based on forecasted market conditions.

The plant employs about 40 workers. The facility uses coal as fuel.

Baird said the deactivation dates are the company’s best time estimates, based on the compliance deadlines for environmental regulations and current market conditions. If those factors change, it would re-evaluate and adapt its plans as appropriate.

The New Castle plant is scheduled for deactivation in April of 2015.

Deactivation means the plant no longer will generate electricity, Baird said.

Altogether, the company expects to deactivate 3,140 megawatts of generating capacity between June, 2012, and May, 2015.

The New Castle power plant is a 332-megawatt generating station that sits on 270 acres off Route 168 in Taylor Township.

GenOn was formed Dec. 3, 2010, through the merger of Mirant Corp. and RRI Energy Inc.

GenOn’s chairman and chief executive officer, Edward R. Muller, in a news release cited “significant decline in commodity prices facing the industry today,” as the reason for the curtailments.

 Baird said that once the plant closes, the company does not anticipate any material changes to the structures or the site.

“We will maintain the site appearance while the plant is in a deactivated state,” he wrote. “Any proposals to remove the structures on the site will be evaluated to determine if such actions are economic.”

(Email: dmorris@ncnewsonline.com)

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