NY to Close Coal-Fired Power Plants by 2020

New York may be closing its coal-fired power plants, but smog and acid rain still drift in from plants in the Midwest. (laborec425/AdobeStock)

NEW YORK – The last of New York state’s coal-fired power plants will be phased out by the end of next year. 

On Thursday, the Department of Environmental Conservation adopted final regulations requiring all power plants to meet strict new CO2 emissions standards. The new standards will effectively end the burning of coal for power in the state, making New York the first state to regulate an end to that major source of greenhouse gas emissions. 

Peter Iwanowicz, executive director of Environmental Advocates of New York, notes that this fulfills a pledge Gov. Andrew Cuomo made in his 2016 State of the State address.

“Burning coal really has no place in a clean and healthy future, and soon, burning coal will have no place in New York,” says Iwanowicz. “Our lungs and our climate will be much better off because of this move, and we really applaud the governor for doing it.”

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There are two coal-fired power plants still in operation in New York. They could stay open if they install expensive emissions-capture technology or switch to natural gas.

While New York is taking steps to clean its air, the Environmental Protection Agency this week proposed denying New York’s petition to address pollution from upwind states. Iwanowicz says coal plants in the Midwest emit smog-forming pollution and acid rain that falls in New York. 

“It’s really bad news that the administration in Washington, D.C., has taken this approach of just being ‘all-in’ for the coal industry, rather than worrying about public health and the environment,” says Iwanowicz.

The EPA says New York has not demonstrated that the coal-fired plants it named in the petition emit pollution at levels that violate the Clean Air Act’s “good neighbor” provision.

According to Iwanowicz, there still is one option left for the state to pursue that could force the EPA to take action.

“The federal clean air law set up the standard where this phenomenon of second-hand smog is supposed to be ended when states petition,” says Iwanowicz. “The Trump administration is thumbing their nose at New York, and New York should take them to court.”

New York’s petition named more than 350 sources of pollution in nine states.

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