In what’s been described as a major indication that coal, for domestic energy use, is slowly on the way out, one of the nation’s largest utilities has agreed to shutter three of its coal-fired power plants as part of a legal settlement.
American Electric Power (AEP) will stop using coal by 2015 at power plants in Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky. It intends to replace the energy produced by the plants with new wind and solar investments in Indiana and Michigan.
The company also will spend $5 billion to install pollution controls on other plants located throughout the East and reduce its annual sulfur dioxide emissions over the next 12 years from 828,000 tons to 174,000 tons.
The changes were prompted by a lawsuit filed in 1999 by eight states (Massachusetts, Vermont, Rhode Island, Maryland, New Hampshire, Connecticut, New Jersey and New York), along with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and environmental groups. The agreement updates a 2007 settlement between the parties, which included a small but significant waiver clause assuring AEP that the Bush administration—which opposed Clean Air Act regulations, and whose EPA was party to the settlement—would not enforce legal action against the company’s future violations of the Act.
As part of the current settlement, AEP will pay $6 million to the eight states that sued and $2.5 million to Indiana citizen groups to address air pollution issues.
Coal plants currently supply 32% of the nation’s electricity, and are the largest source of mercury, sulfur dioxide and carbon pollution in the U.S. According to estimates by the Clean Air Task Force, the closing of the three AEP coal plants will prevent 203 deaths, 310 heart attacks, 3,160 asthma attacks, and 188 emergency room visits per year.
-Noel Brinkerhoff, Danny Biederman
To Learn More:
American Electric Power Agrees to Retire Three Coal-Fired Power Plants in Major Clean Air and Climate Victory (Earthjustice)
American Electric Power Agrees to Close 3 Coal Plants in Emissions Settlement (by Juliet Eilperin and Steven Mufson, Washington Post)
Big Coal Polluters Get a Pass in Obama’s Environmental Plan (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
Iowa Coal Plant Tricks Air Pollution Monitors (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
Coal vs. Wind on a West Virginia Mountain (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
Majority of U.S. Governors Call for Increased Support for Wind Energy (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)