Story (exerpted) and photo used by permission from the (Steubenville) Herald-Star
Bethany Schunn is a chemist by trade. In fact, she began working in the power industry in 2005 at the American Electric Power Conesville Plant chemistry lab, and eventually climbed the ranks to become maintenance superintendent there.
She came to Buckeye Power, the generating arm of Ohio’s Electric Cooperatives, in 2017, and earlier this year, she was named plant manager at the Cardinal Power Plant, just as Buckeye Power took over operations of the plant from AEP. She is the first woman to hold the plant’s top post in its nearly 50 years of operation.
“We’re taking on a new evolution as the business model has changed,” she says. “Just getting everyone’s mindset on that and looking to the future — and not just immediate needs — is what we need to do here. That’s one of my goals, to get everyone rowing in the same direction to achieve that together.”
Schunn said it is a challenging time for coal-fired power plants in general, though Ohio’s electric cooperatives, which collectively own two of the three generating units, have invested more than $1 billion in technology that has made Cardinal one of the cleanest coal-fired plants in the world.
“We plan to be here for the long haul,” she says. “There may be more environmental regulations to comply with, but we anticipate that and will plan for those as they come up. In the end, we still need to provide electricity for our co-op members, and we need to do it in the cleanest, safest, most reliable, and most affordable way we can.”
“I invite anyone to come to Cardinal so we can explain it to them,” she says. “If they would come to the plant or go on one of our tours, we could show them all of our environmental controls and strict safety standards, and that puts people’s minds at ease to know we are thinking about the environment in that way.” While she doesn’t push the agenda of women in the workplace, it is unavoidable that the topic does come up among those who haven’t worked with her.
“In this industry, I’m proud of any woman in any role who works here, or in any male-dominated industry,” she says.