Coal-fired power plant to close after new wastewater regulations

Climate change has not driven some US coal-fired power plants to shut down. It is the cost of stricter pollution control on their wastewater.

Dozens of plants across the country are required to comply with stricter federal wastewater guidelines as the industry continues to move away from global warming fossil fuels to produce electricity, according to state regulator submissions. We plan to stop burning coal in the last 10 years.

new Wastewater rules Power plants need to remove coal ash and toxic heavy metals such as mercury, arsenic, and selenium from plant wastewater before dumping them into streams or rivers. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the rule is expected to affect 75 coal-fired power plants nationwide.

October deadlines to inform state regulators how they plan to comply with these plants, using options such as upgrading anti-pollution equipment and discontinuing coal-fired power generation units by 2028. had.

According to the Sierra Club, which is tracking submissions to state regulators, the national impact of wastewater regulations is still in the spotlight, but at least 26 plants in 14 states will stop burning coal. According to the Environment Group, 21 plants will be closed, and 5 plants may switch to natural gas.

“The free rides these plants get are done in many ways,” said Sierra Club lawyer Zack Fabish. “And they chose to retire by 2028, probably because many of the grants they’re getting in that they can dump their wastewater into the Commons can’t do that in the future. It reflects the reality of. “

The EPA estimates that this rule will reduce pollutant emissions into national waterways by approximately £ 386 million annually. Implementing a plant operator is expected to cost nearly $ 200 million annually.

Two of Pennsylvania’s largest coal-fired power plants, Keystone and Conemaugh, on the outskirts of Pittsburgh, are scheduled to close, Associated Press.

The factory was opened over 50 years ago and employs a total of approximately 320 full-time workers and 170 contractors. According to the industry average for coal-fired power plants of the same size, they will probably generate enough electricity for 1.5 million households.

In addition to Pennsylvania, the states with power plants scheduled to cease coal use by 2028 are Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, and Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia, Sierra Club. The data shows.

Electricity producers who say they will close coal-fired power plants as a result of the new regulations include Atlanta-based Southern and Houston-based NRG. Southern, which operates power companies in Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi, has two-thirds of its coal-fired power plants, including the Scheller and Bowen units, the country’s largest coal-fired power plants in Georgia. He said it would be closed. NRG said it plans to stop burning coal at its domestic plant outside Texas and install new pollution control devices at its two plants in Texas.

The power sector has spent years migrating from coal to cheaper, cleaner burning natural gas and renewable energies such as wind and solar. According to the Energy Information Bureau, about 30% of the power generation capacity of coal-fired power plants has been abolished since 2010 nationwide. (Coal usage at power plants is expected to surge by more than 20% this year due to the sharp rise in natural gas prices (the first rise since 2014), but the Energy Agency said the trend is temporary. I expect it to be.)

The long-term transition from coal is prominent in Pennsylvania, the third-largest coal-producing country in the country after Wyoming and West Virginia. The share of coal power generation in the state fell from almost half in 2010 to 10% last year, and operators took advantage of the state-wide boom in natural gas drilling at the country’s largest gas field, the Marcellus shale. Seventeen coal-fired power plants in Pennsylvania have been discontinued since 2009.

“The smallest and oldest (coal) plants were generally the first to be killed by economics. Jean Reaves Rollins, president of CThree Group, a market research firm focused on energy infrastructure and utilities, said: It states as follows.

She said coal-fired power plants in competitive electricity markets like Pennsylvania are also under pressure. “For the two Pennsylvania plants, it’s clear that the cost of compliance removes them from financial operation,” she said.

According to federal data, Pennsylvania and neighboring Ohio have accounted for 20% of all coal-fired power plant shutdowns in the United States in recent years.

The Keystone and Conemaugh plants are owned by a consortium of individual investors, and Texas-based electricity producer Talen Energy also owns the shares. Taren introduced the question to the chief operating officer of the factory who did not return the phone or email.

Industry insiders claim that the stagnation of so many coal-fired power plants will affect the country’s power grid. Michelle Bloodworth, president and CEO of America’s Power, an industry group that represents coal-fueled electricity, cited recent power outages in Texas and elsewhere as an example of “what happens if it’s too fast.” rice field.

“We are currently monitoring the situation, but are concerned that overly aggressive policies that lead to the early retirement of dispatchable power generation, such as the coal fleet, could jeopardize the reliability and resilience of the grid. “We are,” said Bradworth.

Experts have It pointed out In the case of a major Texas power outage last winter, most of the megawatts that went offline were produced by gas, coal, and nuclear power plants.

In Pennsylvania, Keystone and Konemau’s planned retirement is the construction of trade unions, industrial groups, and coal communities in the state. Planned entry into the Regional Greenhouse Gas InitiativeA multilateral consortium that imposes prices on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants that use coal, gas, and oil. Pennsylvania will be the first major fossil fuel state to adopt such a carbon pricing policy.

David Masur, executive director of the Environmental Group’s Penn Environment, said the closure “with or without policies to reduce carbon pollution, companies that own these outdated power plants intend to close or convert them anyway. “.

Due to the planned outage, the Homer City power plant could continue to operate by the end of the decade as the last large-scale traditional coal-fired power plant in the state. Homer City, east of Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania’s largest coal-fired power plant, told state regulators that it plans to continue operations and comply with new wastewater restrictions.

According to the EPA, shutter plant owners are responsible for environmental cleanup.