250 coal fired power plants to be retired: Sierra Club
On Monday, Dayton Power & Light, an electric company serving the Miami Valley in Ohio, announced it will be shutting down two coal fired power plants in southern Ohio in 2018 for economic reasons.
The move has been called a setback for the ailing coal industry and a victory for environmentalists.
During the 2016 presidential election campaign, candidate Donald Trump promised he would restore US coal jobs the said had been destroyed by Obama administration environmental regulations.
In a statement released by the company, the subsidiary of The AES Corporation says it is planning to close the J.M. Stuart and Killen plants by 2018 because they would not be “economically viable beyond mid-2018”.
The two plants located along the Ohio River in Adams County employ some 490 people and generate about 3,000 megawatts of power from coal.
Reuters reports the closure follows negotiations involving Dayton Power & Light, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio and stakeholders like the Sierra Club over whether the company should be able to raise electricity rates to pay for upgrades necessary to keep the plants open.
The closure of the two plants is a blow to the region.
“They are by far our largest employer and it will absolutely be devastating to our community here in Ohio,” Michael Pell, president of First State Bank in Winchester, Ohio said in an interview with Reuters.
Pell has lobbied to keep the plants going, becoming a spokesman for Adams County on the issue. He believes that as utilities move away from coal fired plants, state and federal authorities should help the county create new jobs and clean up the environmental damage caused by the plants.
Dan Sawmiller, the Sierra Club’s “Beyond Coal” representative in the area told Reuters that he would stay in contact with local authorities to try to minimize the impact on jobs in the area.
“We like to see the pollution coming offline, but we really are keenly focused on the impact to the community,” Sawmill said.
Bruce Nilles, campaign director for “Beyond Coal” says the planned closures would be the number of US coal fired power plants due to be retired to 250.
“This milestone is a testament to the commitment Americans have to cleaner air and water – and the power of grassroots action to create healthier communities,” Nilles said in an email to Reuters.
The two plants are located in an area that President Trump vowed to revitalize with more jobs and greater economic security during the election campaign, promising to “bring back coal”.
Reuters says a White House spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for a comment on the closures.
In recent years, demand for coal has flagged as cheap, plentiful and cleaner natural gas has proven to be stiff competition to coal.
Natural gas from shale production has made it uneconomical to upgrade older coal plants to meet increasingly stricter environmental regulations. Thomson Reuters data shows in 2016, US power companies retired or converted over 14,000 MW of coal fired power plants after shutting down a record over 17,000 MW in 2015.
As well in 2015, coal used to produce electricity fell to its lowest level since 1984 according to data from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Coal fired generator produced 33 per cent of America’s total generation, down from over 50 per cent in 2003.