2007. A rough year for coal – 59 plants cancelled!

posted by Matt Ran

Ahh, 2007. What a year. The iPhone made its debut (got one). The Harry Potter series comes to an end (never read a single one). Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, OJ Simpson, Kid Rock, and Senator Larry Craig all went to jail. (As did I, but for the climate, not driving drunk or bathroom kink). Al Gore won a Nobel Prize for the climate (but, we still think he should be in jail).

But Fox news has forgotten to mention that in 2007, all our organizing has started to pay off on the fight against coal-fired power plants! Based on research compiled by Coal Moratorium Now! – 59 proposed coal plants were cancelled or severely delayed last year!

Despite the attempts of coal-industry front groups (like Americans for Balanced Energy Choices) to portray coal as a necessary or desirable aspect of our future – the fact is it’s a dirty thing of the past. They can pump millions of dollars into sponsoring presidential debates, slick advertising campaigns, or dishonest marketing slogans like “clean coal” – but the fact is, we aren’t buying it. And slowly but surely, regulators, politicians, utilities, and investors (what RAN is focusing on) aren’t buying it either – they are moving to energy efficiency and clean renewable sources as the smart choices for our future.

Check out the press release below – and help spread the word! Thanks for the hard work and support – your efforts make ARE making a difference!


Proposed Coal Plants Losing Steam

59 Coal Plants Cancelled or Shelved in 2007

SAN FRANCISCO—Fifty-nine proposed coal-fired power plants were cancelled or shelved during 2007, according to research compiled by Coal Moratorium NOW! and Rainforest Action Network. Both groups are calling for a moratorium on the construction of new coal-fired power plants.

The list, including documentation, is posted online at “Coal Plants Cancelled in 2007.” It includes data supplied by Sierra Club, coalSwarm, the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Lab, and utility industry sources.

“Coal-fired power plants are the wrong investment for our climate, our health, and our economy,” said Becky Tarbotton, director of Rainforest Action Network’s Global Finance Campaign. “Utilities, regulators, and investors are realizing that the path ahead is energy efficiency and renewable energy. It’s time to stop financing and building coal and to start funding the future.”

Ted Nace, founder of Coal Moratorium NOW! said, “Although we knew that many plants were being nixed, we were stunned by the total number. It spells real hope for the movement seeking to blunt the coal rush.”

Because coal is the largest contributor to the human-made increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide, coal plants are at the top of the list of global warming threats cited by climate scientists. Dr. James Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Space Center, the world’s largest climate research agency, told Congress on April 26, 2007, that a moratorium on new coal plants is “the most critical action for saving the planet at this time.”

Among the study’s conclusions:

· Climate concerns played a role in at least 15 plant cancellations. These included five plants in Florida, where Gov. Charlie Crist has made global warming a top issue; a three-unit plant in Kansas opposed by Gov. Kathleen Sibelius; and several plants affected by strict new carbon regulations in western states.

· Coal plants disappeared entirely from some utilities’ long-range plans: Increasingly, coal plants were cancelled before they could even be named, due to increasing regulatory scrutiny of long-range integrated resource plans by states such as Oregon and California.

· Renewables began elbowing out coal: Regulators in several states favored utility-scale renewables over coal. In Delaware, regulators cancelled a coal power plant proposed by NRG Energy in favor of an alternative proposal that combined wind and natural gas. In California, the combination of a strict carbon emissions standard and a renewable portfolio standard prompted utilities to enter into contracts for large thermal solar projects sponsored by Ausra, BrightSource, and Solel.

· Grassroots opposition mounted, financial markets cooled to coal: After a spate of enthusiasm in 2006, coal plant financiers in 2007 recoiled from escalating construction costs; litigation by environmental groups; and public opposition to coal expressed through rallies, sit-ins, petitions, and local referenda in Texas, Maine, Montana, Utah, Iowa, Minnesota, Virginia, and elsewhere. As sponsors ran into difficulty raising funds, numerous projects were quietly abandoned.

· More plants were abandoned than rejected: Of the 59 cancelled or sidetracked projects, only 15 were rejected outright by regulators, courts, or local authorities. In the remaining 44 cases, the decision was made by the sponsors themselves. Besides climate concerns, leading reasons for abandoning plants include (1) rapidly rising construction costs, (2) insufficient financing or failure to receive hoped-for government subsidies, and (3) lowered estimates of demand.

· Heavy spending but poor results for “clean coal”: Despite a multi-million dollar advertising campaign by the coal industry in support of its “clean coal” message, the public was unconvinced. An October poll by Opinion Research Corporation showed that 75 percent of American adults would support a five-year moratorium on new coal plants if funding for renewable alternatives was increased and efficiency standards were tightened.

Background on the Coal Boom

After mainly building natural gas turbines during the 1980s and 1990s, utilities returned to coal when natural gas prices jumped in 2000. In May 2007, the Department of Energy’s “Tracking New Coal-Fired Power Plants” (5/07) study counted 151 proposed coal plants. Five months later, “Tracking New Coal-Fired Power Plants” (10/07) counted 121 proposed plants. According to a survey completed in the first week of January 2008 by Coal Moratorium NOW! and Rainforest Action Network, the number of proposed plants (including those under construction or recently completed) now stands at 113. Details on the study may be seen at the following links:

· “Coal Plants Cancelled in 2007

· Proposed Coal Plants: state-by-state descriptions

· Proposed Coal Plants: spreadsheet

· Table of Proposed Coal Plants by Expected Year of Completion

· Table of Proposed Coal Plants by Type of Utility

· Table of Proposed Coal Plants by Region


Coal Moratorium NOW! (http://cmNOW.org) tracks the coal boom and advocates for a moratorium on new coal plants. Together with the Center for Media and Democracy, Coal Moratorium NOW! also co-sponsors www.coalSwarm.org, a coal-oriented wiki. Contact: info@cmNOW.org or Ted Nace at 510-331-8743.

Rainforest Action Network (http://www.dirtymoney.org) runs hard-hitting campaigns to break America’s oil addiction, reduce our reliance on coal, protect endangered forests and indigenous rights, and stop destructive investments around the world through education, grassroots organizing, and non-violent direct action.