FirstEnergy is committed to protecting the environment while delivering safe, reliable electricity to our customers. In keeping with our balanced, long-term approach, we’re minimizing the impact of our operations while protecting wildlife and promoting conservation.
We work to mitigate avian issues throughout our territory through partnerships with conservation organizations and agencies.
Our most notable success is JCP&L’s osprey program. In partnership with the New Jersey Environmental Protection Agency and other groups, we have successfully protected these birds from electrocutions and collisions with our equipment by relocating nesting platforms and installing deterrents to future nesting on utility structures. This collaboration has helped us inform and educate the public of our avian protection process, while providing safe nesting locations for osprey.
FirstEnergy has also long been a member of the Edison Electric Institute’s Avian Power Interaction Committee. This committee brings utilities, wildlife resource agencies, conservation groups and manufacturers of avian protection products together to protect birds. We also work with avian protection and conservation organizations to expand education and environmental awareness. For example, we work with the Erie Bird Conservancy, which provides osprey platforms in our Penn Power service area, and Birds of Flight Sanctuary, which assists in the care of injured birds.
The FirstEnergy Foundation also contributes to local bird advocacy groups throughout our service area. The Foundation supports educational and science programs at the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in our Met-Ed territory.
We continue to find ways to minimize our waste streams and expand our refurbishment and reuse efforts. Waste streams at FirstEnergy include, but are not limited to, municipal landfill waste, universal regulated waste and hazardous waste. We track all waste generated from our operations and submit periodic reports to regulatory agencies. FirstEnergy minimizes waste through a number of concerted efforts.
Our Environmental group and The Illuminating Company’s Mayfield Service Center joined forces to turn slurry from hydro-excavated soil (a byproduct of utility pole installation) into material suitable for beneficial reuse. When installing utility poles, we make holes in the ground by water-jetting soil at high pressure, resulting in a slurry byproduct. Excess slurry is removed by truck, treated (dewatered), tested and properly reused in accordance with EPA regulations.
For Mayfield Service Center crews, this makes installing poles a zero-waste process. We are evaluating opportunities to implement the Eastlake Soil Project’s process at other service centers located in The Illuminating Company and Ohio Edison service areas.
At our Miles Service Center in Cleveland, we manage the company’s surplus assets through reuse, refurbishment, sale or disposal. Processing scrap wire and cable and participating in like-kind exchanges provides revenue to the company. Our efforts to repair or process materials and products for reuse also creates less landfill waste and mitigates our environmental impact.
In 2019, we launched an employee waste reduction initiative that included removing polystyrene and single-use plastics from our corporate breakrooms and food services. We also kicked off a centralized waste program at our corporate headquarters to demonstrate how employee actions—even on a small scale—can make a big difference in our environmental impact. Moving forward, we plan to expand these programs across the company.
Percent of coal combustion products beneficially used
Non-hazardous industrial waste generated
Non-hazardous municipal waste generated
Hazardous waste disposed
Air quality controls at FirstEnergy’s coal-fired plants produce synthetic gypsum or dry Flue Gas Desulfurization as a byproduct. This material is transported to state-of-the-art dry disposal facilities that use liners and leachate protection systems as well as extensive groundwater monitoring to ensure environmental protection.
FirstEnergy is committed to meeting all requirements of the Federal Coal Combustion Residual (CCR) regulations. In 2018, CCR generation at our Fort Martin Power Station reached 630,000 tons, and our Harrison Power Station produced 2.3 million tons. Of those totals, we beneficially used 97% of the waste from Fort Martin but landfilled 99.9% of the waste produced at Harrison. We’re evaluating opportunities to beneficially reuse Harrison’s CCR waste in the future.
Our two regulated fossil-fueled generation plants function with 100% closed-cycle cooling systems (with cooling towers), which use 80% to 90% less water compared to once-through, open-cycle cooling systems. This has helped our regulated generation fleet avoid more than 40 billion gallons in water withdrawals every year. Minimizing water use mitigates our impact on the environment by reducing our use of an important natural resource.
FirstEnergy’s Environmental organization also works with our generating facilities to reduce wastewater. For example, a project at our Harrison Power Station aims to decrease the environmental impact of leachate from the plant’s landfill while reducing the amount of water the plant draws from the West Fork River. Water piped from the landfill’s sedimentation treatment ponds will be recycled for use in the plant’s scrubber system. Roughly half of the water in the collection ponds will be recycled this way. The other half will be treated before it is released. This project is expected to reduce the volume of water taken from the river by between 216,000 and 288,000 gallons per day. The reduction also means a significant portion of the water used daily in the scrubbers is recycled.
Our Environmental group received the 2018 FirstEnergy President’s Award for demonstrating accountability, ownership and commitment in their efforts to reduce water use. In a project benefiting our Eastlake and Ashtabula facilities, the Environmental group implemented an idea that eliminated the need to use city water for a process—saving approximately 1.6 million gallons of water annually at Eastlake and 23.6 million gallons annually at Ashtabula.
When we retire a generating plant, a Decommissioning & Demolition (D&D) team evaluates options for demolishing the plant or develops a strategic plan and schedule to place the facility in a long-term safe, secure and environmentally compliant state prior to closure, demolition and possible final site remediation.
As part of decommissioning, all unnecessary equipment and treatment processes are drained of oil and chemicals, reducing future environmental risk. All other regulated waste streams are managed in accordance with regulatory requirements. The D&D effort also includes a review that allows the facility to remain unmanned while maintaining compliance with all applicable permits and appropriate environmental safeguards.
Once decommissioning is complete, the site is turned over to the Environmental Field Operations group for required sampling and monitoring. If a decision is made to demolish structures, the D&D team and Supply Chain group work together to select a vetted demolition contractor. The D&D team assembles a demolition team to provide project management and coordination during the demolition process, which can take up to 24 months. Scrap recovery offsets the overall demolition cost and recovered material is trucked or barged to scrap yards for reuse.
To date, we have completed demolition and remediation on the following sites: R.E. Burger, Edgewater, Gorge, Mad River, Rockaway and Toronto.
Manufactured Gas Plants (MGPs) produced “town gas” from coal, petroleum or a coal-and-oil mixture to serve a community’s lighting, cooking and heating needs. Most MGPs operated between 1840 and 1950 and were dismantled and typically sold at the end of their useful life.
At our legacy MGP sites, we implement technically sound, cost-effective and prudent solutions for remediation. At MGP sites in residential areas, we have designed and implemented an innovative remedial method that significantly minimizes the community impact and shortens the remediation timeline while preserving environmental safety.