More Coal Closures in Midwest – When Will MA Go Coal-Free?

And, in other news, more than 1,000 new coal plants are being planned worldwide. - promoted by Bob_Neer

Ohio Power Co. Muskingum River PlantThe Sierra Club is announcing a big victory for clean air and climate action in the Midwest today:

Today a coalition of citizen groups, states and U.S. EPA announced a landmark settlement agreement with American Electric Power (AEP) requiring AEP to stop burning coal by 2015 at three power plants in Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky. AEP also agreed to replace a portion of these coal plants with new wind and solar investments in Indiana and Michigan, bringing more clean energy on line to meet the region’s electricity needs. [...]

Coal-fired power plants are the nation’s largest source of mercury, sulfur dioxide (SO2) pollution, carbon pollution and many other deadly pollutants that can trigger heart attacks and contribute to respiratory problems. According to estimates from the Clean Air Task Force, 203 deaths, 310 heart attacks, 3,160 asthma attacks, and 188 emergency room visits per year will be averted once the Muskingum River, Tanners Creek and Big Sandy power plants stop burning coal.

Aside from the obvious climate and public health benefits, ratepayers in Ohio should be cheering this long-overdue move to get Ohio off its addiction to one source of energy. In 2009, Ohio was getting a ridiculous 84 percent of its energy from coal. That dropped to 78 percent by 2011, but with coal prices rising, natural gas prices plummeting and the cost of wind and solar dropping by the day, diversifying Ohio’s electric portfolio is just good business.

We’ve nearly weaned ourselves off of coal here in Massachusetts, but the Mt. Tom plant outside Holyoke and the Brayton Point station near Fall River remain. (I’m sure it’s just a coincidence remaining coal plants are close to poor, urban areas.)

Tell Gov. Deval Patrick you want Massachusetts to go coal-free - and while you’re at it, show your support for building Cape Wind now.

Recommended by mike_cote, jconway, somervilletom.


12 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. Build Cape Wind Now!

    I can think of nothing more offensive to liberal values than the NIMBY opposition to Cape Wind. It truly is rich white people trying to maintain their property values at the expense of the rest of us when it comes to the environment and public health. Here are a couple of facts that make this personal for me

    1) My grandparents lived a collective 100 years next to the Salem coal plant and both died of strokes, significant numbers of my dads friends let alone their parents also died of strokes or cancers, which can be directly caused by exposure to coal plants. The rates in Marblehead downwind of that plant are even higher. SHUT IT DOWN

    2) In Chicago where I make my home now rates of asthma and childhood leukemia are significantly higher in the predominately Hispanic neighborhoods of Pilsen downwind of a coal plant, and most of the coal plants, like ours in Fall River, are in economically depressed areas. The one pictured in this post with the nuclear style coning tower is in Michigan City IN right next to a national park, and its helped wreck the Indiana Dunes park in a variety of ways.

    3) In my fiancee’s hometown of Bangui, Ilocos in the Philippines they have clean windmills right on the beach. The residents, largely poor subsistence farmers and fishermen welcomed clean electricity with open arms. It was the first wind farm in Southeast asia and has become a major tourist attraction (If I find the photo of me in my ill fitting windmill t-shirt I will totally post it). Nothing to me illustrates the hypocrisy of rich white Cape Wind opponents than the fact that 1) poor and browner people suffer from being next to dirty plants and 2) everyone benefits from clean and reliable wind power and 3) If an underdeveloped area like my fiancee’s hometown can have and celebrate clean energy certainly the ‘Athens of America’ can as well.

    • Everyone suffers

      Acid rain is a product of those Midwest coal plants. When the Federal government promulgated regulations that would penalize states with high levels of air pollution, the Midwest plants responded by building taller smokestacks, which lifted the pollutants up into winds that blew them out of the region. Much of that pollution settled here in Massachusetts, and we paid Ohio’s penalties until the regulations were changed.

      An example: Walden Pond is a closed system; it has no outlet, so substances that are introduced to it don’t go away. As late as the 1960s, there was a lot of vegetation and wildlife living in the pond. By the late ’70s, that was all gone, killed by acid rain. I haven’t been there in about ten years, but I’d be surprised if the ecology has recovered.

      Currently, Japan is trying to help China to stop polluting both countries’ air.

      Coal is only cheap energy if you ignore the consequences of using it.

  2. Bangui windmills

    The windmills

    An example of the t shirt

    Article on the windmills

    Standing in an arc in wind-lashed scrubland, the windmills, which started supplying electricity to 40 per cent of Ilocos Norte province in May, are the first source of clean energy introduced in the Phillipines, a nation with 84 million people reliant on oil and gas. “

    These windmills are a source of immense pride, not just to the village and the region but to the entire country. They are right on the beach, and as the pictures show they look beautiful, particularly against a sunset. These are about as obstructive an eyesore as a lighthouse, and serve a more useful purpose to boot. We have to get over the entitled and privileged opposition to this necessary project. If they can build it in the Philippines, a third world country with gut wrenching poverty, if they can prioritize its construction in spite of the many other challenges they face, than we can build it here. Its frankly offensive that we refuse to do so.

    • Thank you

      for sharing this inspiring story from the Philippines. I hope it serves as an example not just for the Cape or for the U.S. but for each country that may be able to harness wind power similarly. In my hometown area (Finger Lakes, NY) the battle of anti-wind self-proclaimed environmentalists (many but not all of whom are wealthy, retired owners of lake homes) screaming about the damage to their pastoral views was pitted against farmers who wanted to try to make a buck so they could stay on the farm. Liberal hypocrisy is right (though I agree that throwing up wind turbines owned by large often foreign conglomerates willy nilly is ill conceived; like all energy sources, this is an industry that needs wise and diligent regulation)! It is interesting indeed to see how the allegiances changed when the hot topic became hydrofracking of the Marcellus Shale deposits, before the wind debate was quite done. But that’s another story.

      I did some research into the environmental impacts of wind turbines a few years back and basically concluded that the negative impacts (birds, noise) can be readily mitigated, unlike with oil, coal, or natural gas, and that the perceptions of ruined pastoral or coastal vistas are, like so many things, a matter of perspective. Are they giant metal threatening obstructions symbolizing tyranny, or are they a symbol of progress, care for one another, and a cleaner future? Depends on your predisposition.

  3. A little data on Mt Tom and Brayton Point

    1. As of now, it seems unlikely that Brayton Point will retire in the next few years. Mt Tom is far less clear — their owner (GDF Suez) is mum, and it’s a smaller, less efficient plant. Mt Tom will need some upgrades to comply with EPA standards, and so GDF Suez has to decide if the future profitability of running the plant will exceed the upfront cost. My *guess* is that they will retire (fn 1).

    2. Neither Brayton Point nor Mt Tom are operating very often. For most of the 8760 hours of 2012, they sat idle, not burning any coal at all. While there are start/stop effects, most of the pollution we worry about [NOx, SOx, PM, Hg, CO2, etc] are a function of how much coal is burned — which is directly linked to the generation at the plants. So while closing the plants would assure none of those pollutants coming from those locations in the future, very low operation levels at the plant are *close to* zero, relative to their operation levels a few years ago.

    I’m not arguing that they shouldn’t be closed, or that closing them wouldn’t be a better outcome from an emissions perspective. I’m simply suggesting that (1) Mt Tom may close soon but Brayton Point probably won’t, and (2) that the emissions from these plants is way down from a few years ago because their operation isn’t economic for most hours of the year.

    1. My guess is extremely educated in this particular case, but it’s based on general estimates for the costs of pollution controls that they appear to need, the heat rate of the plant, the LMP in their region, etc. It’s not based on any kind of inside information.

  4. Keep it in the ground

    in the ground: the one good place for coal

    • Or mix it with switchgrass and turn it into petrol

      Though that potentially makes the whole thing uneconomical, since carbon capture is necessary to get environmental benefits.

    • True but

      Tom Frank and others have written extensively about how the left keeps losing coal country which used to be a bastion of the New Deal coalition. The tragedy is the right will keep claiming liberals are waging a ‘war on coal’, when in reality the industry is no longer viable in a free market without being propped up by subsidies and with regulations being laxed. It is no longer in the interests of the miners to mine coal, and Obama and other Democrats should have the courage to dedicate serious funds to rebuilding

  5. Ironically

    I watched Harlan County USA last night. Hadn’t seen it in a long time. The liberals are losing ‘coal country’ because they want to take away their hard fought jobs and benefits won with New Deal legislation. What are liberals offering working people instead. Winning votes in coal country is at odds with making coal fuel a thing of the past.

    • It doesn't have to be at odds

      I don’t believe anyone loves being a miner. If Democrats came up with a workable plan to create jobs in the area that did not depend on mining, they would win votes. If the plan created lots of jobs, they’d win lots of votes. In fact, if they came up with a plan like that for the whole country, they’d win votes everywhere.

      /Captain Obvious, signing off…/

      • Agreed

        I am not sure why this hasn’t happened, is it really that the center-right bubble of DC where even the liberal Post screams bloody murder about the deficit holds that much sway? Is it the corporate donations?

        Business voted with their wallets against Obama en masse, most of his big money came from socially liberal rich activists who are probably on board with a jobs program. Jobs has been the #1 issue since 2008 and neither party has addressed it, the media doesn’t cover it, and an obvious plan (look up Roosevelt, Franklin in the encyclopedia) is staring us in the face.

        WV has some of the worst roads in the country, houses that still lack electricity and running water. Couldn’t we rebuild that part of the country, electrify it, water it, and then make the remaining unspoiled mountains national parks and hire miners to make the roads, lodges, and visitor centers that would turn them into real destinations? Its really a sad state and one of the prime examples of how the Democratic Party has continued its tone deafness to working people. We can only be the culturally liberal big business party for so long, since the Republicans are seeing the writing on the wall

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Tue 28 Mar 11:47 AM