EPA regs shut down 60-year old Utah coal plant

Michael Bastasch | Energy Editor

One of Utah’s oldest power plants is slated to close next year due to costly Environmental Protection Agency regulations limiting mercury emissions from coal plants.

The Carbon Power Plant’s location inside a narrow canyon doesn’t give plant operators enough room to install the necessary pollution control technology required by the EPA. Therefore the plant will have to be closed and 74 workers will lose their jobs.

“The way rules are being crafted there is a regulatory environment that will cause a transition away from coal because of air-quality concerns,” said Dave Eskelsen, spokesman for Rocky Mountain Power — the utility that runs the plant. “But that transition is going to be reasonably gradual. We expect to be able to operate our coal plants to the end of their regulatory lives.”

Another Utah coal plant operated by the Intermountain Power Agency will soon be shuttered as well as its customers in southern California are requiring energy to come from natural gas or renewable energy.

Rocky Mountain Power, and the state of Utah as a whole, are still going to be heavily reliant on coal power.

Hundreds of coal plants have been shut down or are currently slated for shutdown, in part, due to pending environmental regulations and lawsuits from environmentalists. Recently, the Sierra Club celebrated the closing of the 150th coal plant since 2010 after the shuttering of the Brayton Point coal plant in Massachusetts was announced.

“Plant by plant and community by community we are not only curbing our country’s carbon pollution, but we are also saving lives,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. “The transition from coal to clean energy can and will transform our economy by establishing a huge new sector of good jobs that power our communities without poisoning our children.”

The Clean Air Task Force claims that shuttering the 150 coal plants will save 4,000 lives annually, prevent 6,200 heart attacks and 66,300 asthma attacks every year and avoid $1.9 billion in health costs.

More coal plant could happen in the near future as the EPA has proposed regulations would effectively ban the construction of new coal-fired power plants, unless they utilize commercially unproven carbon capture and sequestration technology.

However, the coal industry and some states are fighting back against the EPA’s coal plant regulations and have brought the issue all the way to the Supreme Court. The high court recently promised to review EPA greenhouse gas emissions limits on power plants.

“If Sierra Club had its way, America’s energy future would be dark. Sierra Club seeks to permanently phase out coal from our nation’s energy portfolio by 2030, even though coal powers nearly 40% of America’s electricity, and its diminished use would result in a dangerous overreliance on natural gas, which is a ‘just-in-time’ source, piped in when needed, and intermittent energy sources like renewables,” said Laura Sheehan, spokeswoman for the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity.

“Sierra Club’s definition of ‘victory’ is nothing but a ‘loss’ for the thousands of coal communities that continue to reel from plant and mine shutdowns, and for America’s energy future,” Sheehan added.

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