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Utility companies across the U.S. will shut down and retire aging coal-fired power plants following the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) announcement of the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAP). This rule is intended to reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide at coal-fired power plants and makes it incredibly costly for utility companies to modernize aging facilities to meet the stringent emissions standards.

The EPA is currently working on other proposed guidelines that will likely force the closure of numerous coal plants in the near future. These standards include limiting mercury pollution, reducing carbon dioxide emissions and regulating coal ash, a toxic by-product of coal-fired power plants. The EPA estimates the CSAP rule alone will save the lives of 34,000 people across the nation each year.

EPA administrator Lisa Jackson said in a statement that regulations are essential:
No community should have to bear the burden of another community's polluters, or be powerless to prevent air pollution that leads to asthma, heart attacks and other harmful illnesses. These Clean Air Act safeguards will help protect the health of millions of Americans and save lives by preventing smog and soot pollution from traveling hundreds of miles and contaminating the air they breathe.
These changes can help our vehicles, too. The closure of old and dirty coal-fired power plants means that more plug-in vehicles will be charged by electricity that doesn't come from these archaic, dirty plants.

[Source: The Hill]


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  • 26 Comments
      Ziv
      • 3 Years Ago
      I like the idea of removing the worst coal plants from the equation, but I really wish we could get some new, moderately cleaner coal plants in to replace the ones we close. Our economy relies on cheap energy, and coal is the least expensive energy source we have, followed by nuclear. Fukushima is a perfect example of why we should look at retiring the 40 year old GE nukes and start building the safer, newer nuclear power plants that we already have in use. I think we can use this as a 'teachable moment' that we might not want to site the new nukes in areas likely to have earthquakes and tsunamis, though. But after Obama stated that, "Energy prices will necessarily skyrocket" with his hoped for cap and trade, it became obvious that the EPA would find a way to make energy more expensive, for the great good, mind you. "The cheapest form of electricity is energy conservation" That is a nice saying, but it unfortunately ignores the fact that there have been years of work put into increasing efficiency and most of the low hanging fruit have already been picked. I see 90% efficiency furnaces all the time now and 80% used to be the norm. There is room for improvement, but efficiency gains will have a very hard time in keeping up with energy cost increases. But starting with white (high albedo) roofs, improved geothermal heat pumps, a return to the dreaded use of awnings (they can look cool if done right) to cut down heat in the summer and increase insolation in the winter, better refrigerators/appliances, but I really wonder if we can reduce the typical household energy use by much more than 20%.
        RJC
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Ziv
        Far from it. Aside from bad personal habits of running the air conditioner with the windows open, leaving lights and the tv on, there are millions of homes and businesses in certain parts of the country, built pre- mid 70's, that have exactly zero insulation. It just wasn't required by building codes, so why bother? No dual pane windows, old air conditioning units, etc. You can't go out and quote a job without finding some throw back relic on a daily basis. There is still much to gain in the efficiency and conservation arena.
        j
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Ziv
        Not so cheap when you factor in all of the costs. "The EPA estimates the CSAP rule alone will save the lives of 34,000 people across the nation each year." Tell the former employers of the people who die from respiratory and heart problems what a great deal they are getting from using cheap coal generated electricity.
      Tweaker
      • 3 Years Ago
      And then when we get rolling blackouts because of not enough generation, all the naysayers will be pointing fingers at electric cars. So I have to wonder, does the EPA have a plan to replace these plants? Or just shut them down at all costs?
        Dave R
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Tweaker
        RTFA - the EPA is not forcing anyone to shut down their beloved coal power plant. Only forcing them to clean them up so that people living downstream of their air-stacks aren't forced to live with their pollution. Upgrading some of these old plants will cost too much - so they will shut them down instead. The grid is regulated so that the utilities are forced to keep enough spare capacity available. If shutting down an old dirty coal plant leaves them with insufficient reserves, they will build acquire new reserves to compensate.
        j
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Tweaker
        Outdated plants are shutting down and newer plants are coming on line. It's been a continuous process for the last hundred years or so.
      Actionable Mango
      • 3 Years Ago
      Typical strategy in Sim City is to place your dirty electric plants in the corner of the map. This meant your city only received 25% of the pollution because 75% was off the map. It's not surprising to know this actually occurs in real life, but I wonder if there are entities that actually do this as a strategy i.e., purposely building polluting industry upwind and just across the border of another state.
        Levine Levine
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Actionable Mango
        Transmission infrastructure cost goes up when power plants are situated far from from consumption centers. If you are generating electricity at nearly zero cost, then economic might favor building the long stretch of transmission facilities. For example, when big hydro-electrics generate more electricity 24/7 than the local can consume, it's economical to ship the excess elsewhere despite the costly infrastructure. Note that Southern California buys electricity from Washington State.
      goodoldgorr
      • 3 Years Ago
      They should do green algae farming or methanol with their chimneys co2 outputs instead of releasing it into the air.
      John R
      • 3 Years Ago
      Hurray! I think a little celebration is in order. I'm more than happy to see all coal plants go the way of the dinosaur. Coal mining is quite hazardous to the minors, and is responsible for the demolition of vast expanses of countryside, and coal power plants are responsible for large-scale mercury pollution and numerous associated health hazards. There are plenty of alternatives - natural gas, solar, wind, nuclear, hydro, geothermal, etc, etc.
      • 3 Years Ago
      It's a shame that so many of the commentors here are blinded by political bias to see what a horrible rule this is. Txas power producers have reduced emissions more than 40% over the last 20yrs, without being forced to by the EPA. Requiring them to repeat that effort in less than six months will force them to shut down power plants. Yes there are reserve plants (blackstart, gas, ect.) that are there to pickup the slack during abnormally high periods of power consumption, but they do not have the power necessary to make up the difference once you have taken a large chunk (I'm hearing 30%) of the key coal plants off-line. These plants have been built near sources of coal, and just requiring them to use cleaner burning coal that has to be transported in from out of state will raise the price of electricity for everyone. Of course the railroads do not currently have the capacity to ship the coal needed, so plants will shut down.
      JD
      • 3 Years Ago
      Once again the EPE seems to be an enemy of our country and aa detriment to our future. One would think some constructive thought from the EPA would be more welcome, you know, let's update our old coal fueled power plants to a better standard. We cannot generate all the power required by wind and solar and obviously more safety features are required for nuclear, we've been lucky up to now with them.
        EV Now
        • 3 Years Ago
        @JD
        So, according to you having less mercury in our food is a detriment to our future ? Do you work for a coal lobbyist ?
        • 3 Years Ago
        @JD
        Since coal bumps off around 100,000 people world wide every couple of months or so using just air, water and soil pollution and mining accidents without needing any crisis to kill people and the death toll from radiation at Fukushim hit with a category 9.0 earthquake and a 14 metre tidal wave is exactly zero, it would perhaps seem to many of us that the 'safety features' urgently required are to the use of coal. Of course if the coal industry had to treat it;s wastes including not only goodies like arsenic and mercury with a half life of forever but also radiation emissions due to the uranium and thorium in the coal of around as much from a single large coal plant as for all 100 US nuclear reactors then it would not exist, never mind if it had to pay for it's carbon emissions.
          Ziv
          • 3 Years Ago
          More people will die from organic bean sprouts than will die from Fukushima. Look at the predictions on Chernobyl, and it looks like the number killed is around 32. There has been an increase in thyroid cancer but that hasn't been fatal in the vast majority of the cases. There are costs inherent in everything, expensive electricity will kill more people in heat waves every year, but no one is trumpeting the lives saved by 9 cents a kWh electricity. Maybe they should, though. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deaths_due_to_the_Chernobyl_disaster#cite_note-0
          • 3 Years Ago
          Rick, Perhaps it would be a good idea if you informed yourself about the actual radiation exposures consequent on Fukushima. Evacuation and measures to control radiation in foodstuffs etc mean that the exposure of anyone other than the workers directly involved in the cleanup was minimal, and the few workers to get a relatively heavy dose have only a very slightly enhanced risk. If you want to assess risk, it needs doing properly, not simply seizing on the last ravings of Greenpeace. Just like Three Miles Island, the likely death toll from radiation at Fukushima is zero. What is currently killing people, 43 to date, is heat prostration occasioned by the refusal to turn on nuclear reactors, so the 'safety' obsessions of Luddites is the real killer. BTW, over 12,500 people have been hospitalised due to heat prostration from the same cause. It is stupidity, ignorance and prejudice that is killing people, not nuclear power. The same prejudice that whilst proponents fantasise about running the economy on fairy dust has in practise led to the maintenance of the coal industry with it's huge death toll, and the joys of mountain top removal. So please apply to yourself ideas of 'getting real'. Because you have fantasies about running an industrial society on renewables alone does not make that remotely do-able with anything like present technology.
          Rick C.
          • 3 Years Ago
          Get real. The cancer deaths from Fukushima won't be hitting for years. So the casualty number certainly is not zero. Oncologists won't have true numbers for at least 20 years.
        winc06
        • 3 Years Ago
        @JD
        What is it that is not understood by "dirty coal plants"? So called clean ones will not be shut down. Dirty ones can save themselves by cleaning up. If they cannot afford to do that they should go out of business. I suspect they will save themselves like any other private enterprise. Their profit margins may be slightly less.
        Dave R
        • 3 Years Ago
        @JD
        Jim and Donna - there is nothing keeping these old plants from being upgraded to meet the new emissions requirements. The reason they're being shut down is because it's too expensive to upgrade them. So the owners of the plants will opt to shut them down, instead.
          2 Wheeled Menace
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Dave R
          Dave; you got it. Those emissions scrubbers are mindblowingly expensive. http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/news/s_472994.html Millions to billions of dollars per unit. Which is often times cost competitive with installing a solar or wind array!!
      Mark Schaffer
      • 3 Years Ago
      Roy, The cheapest form of electricity is energy efficiency and conservation and we have only begun to tap those sources. Your faith in nuclear is touching and very misplaced. Fukushima anyone???
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Mark Schaffer
        You clearly don't understand the difference in the reactor types if you think Fukushima has any relevance to the reactor design he's mentioning.
        RJC
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Mark Schaffer
        Less is more.
      Roy_H
      • 3 Years Ago
      This is very good news, but how is this electricity being replaced? We need to finish the research started on LFTRs 50 years ago. Inherently safe, on-demand, pollution free, energy from literally free Thorium. See flibe-energy.com. And no long term radio-active waste. If these LFTRs were situated at coal power stations, they could hook up to existing power lines and get thorium from the coal ash (approx 100 year supply without having to truck it in.)
      jonwil2002
      • 3 Years Ago
      What are they going to replace these plants with? If its more coal fired stations, forget it. Pretty much ANY other power generation technology in current use (including Nuclear) would be better for the environment than coal. Natural gas in particular should make a much bigger contribution to the US power grid than it currently does (its not as green as renewables but its definatly greener than coal)
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