Under pressure from environmental groups to use more green energy, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power announced its intention to wean the city off of coal-fired power within 12 years.
The Los Angeles utility will sell off its interest in a coal-fired plant in Arizona and convert another plant in Utah to burn natural gas. The move was cheered on by environmentalists who say that Los Angeles the largest U.S. city to be coal-free.
“There’s no utility in the country going faster and further,” said Evan Gillespie, of the Sierra Club, who said that getting off the two coal plants would equal taking 2 million cars off the road.
The Sierra Club’s anti-coal campaign has been targeting coal plants nationwide, recently winning a legal victory against the electric utility American Electric Power who will stop burning coal at three power plants by 2015.
The Los Angeles Times reports that environmentalists have been trying to get the city to dump coal-fired power for years. Los Angeles receives nearly 40 percent of its power from the two coal-fired plants.
LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa called the plan “game-changing” and announced a press conference with environmentalists and climate change activist and former Vice President Al Gore.
“I believe the only way to get the goal is to set aggressive timetables,” Villaraigosa said. “Climbing mountains that have never been climbed before [isn't] easy.”
However, the Times notes that there has been no discussion of how much the plan would cost consumers. DWP General Manager Ron Nichols said that converting the Utah coal plant to burn natural gas could cost about $1 billion, and building a new plant that with similar capabilities would cost more than $11 billion.
Nichols also said that getting out of coal contracts is a good move because stricter federal regulations will force coal plants to make costly improvements to reduce emissions in the future.
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