The US may lack a comprehensive climate and energy strategy to mitigate coal use and ramp up the use of renewable energy, but it does have the EPA and father time combining to put pressure on utilities to close down aging coal fired power plants now. The cost of a retrofit required by new national standards for nitrogen oxide and mercury emissions have influenced Virginia-based Dominion Resources to close the State Line Power Station, a plant first constructed in the 1920s.
In the past two years, the country's utilities have decided to shutter about 200 aging coal fired power plants. The trend is a most welcome one-- as these plants close they are being replaced with clean renewable energy and not additional nuclear capacity. In Illinois, the home of State Line, over 500 MW of wind energy has come online in 2010, about the same provided now by the closing coal plant.
Chicago has become a hot spot for coal activism. In April, activists with the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO), Rising Tide North America, Rainforest Action Network (RAN), and the Backbone Campaign climbed the fence to Midwest Generation's controversial Crawford coal plant to call for the plant to close down.
From their press release:
"As a physical education teacher I am alarmed at the high number of students with asthma due to these toxic coal plants. Every class I teach has four to seven students who suffer from horrifying respiratory illness. I can no longer sit back and watch my students and my community being sacrificed for dirty coal," said Gloria Fallon, a Chicago public school teacher and life long south side resident who participated in the protest.
Coal combustion is responsible for about 20 percent of global GHG emissions. Coal plant operators are now deciding what to do with the country's 660 or so plants--make costly retrofits, convert them to natural gas, or shutter them permanently. Here's a great map from Sierra Club that shows the location of these plants and profiles the pollution they cause.
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