How the West is Winning Against Coal


Recent coal plant shut down announcements in December: The Colorado Public Utilities Commission approved the retirement of 902 megawatts of coal power. The Boardman power plant in Oregon will be closed no later than 2020 after a decision by the state Environmental Quality Commission. Los Angeles will divest from one of the dirtiest coal-fired power plants in the country - the Navajo Generating Station in Arizona. The Arizona Public Service Company will begin retirement of three boilers at the Four Corners power plant. In recent months, over 13,000 megawatts of existing coal capacity has been announced for early retirement.

The past month across the western U.S. has been filled with victories against coal:


–After a two year campaign, we locked down the permanent retirement of the Oregon Boardman plant (600-megawatts of dirty coal power) by no later than 2020, and we continue to push for an earlier date.

–Los Angeles recently released a draft plan for the nation’s largest municipal utility that gets out of one of the dirtiest coal-fired power plants in the country – the Navajo Generating Station in Arizona (though the plan still needs a little work [PDF]).

–Two weeks ago, the Arizona Public Service Company announced the retirement of three boilers at the Four Corners power plant – another 650-megawatts of coal going down.

And last week we saw some big news out of Colorado. The Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approved the retirement of 902-megawatts of coal power. They are retiring all of the Denver metro area’s coal plants by no later than 2017 (On Tuesday, they’d decided to retire all but one of the Denver plants, but today they decided on the final one – the 352-megawatt “Cherokee 4 unit.”

The Sierra Club has been heavily involved in all of the above victories.

In Oregon, throughout 2010 we kept up the pressure at the Public Utility Commission and with the state’s Department of Environmental Quality to craft a plan to reduce haze and acid rain from Boardman by closing the plant as soon as possible and making pollution control upgrades more stringent for every additional year the plant is in operation. In 2010, we also continued to advance our Clean Air Act lawsuit against PGE for illegal pollution from the Boardman plant, and the EPA issued the company a Notice of Violation of the Clean Air Act dating back to at least 1998. In 2011, we will continue to hold PGE’s feet to the fire and hope to get the plant closed significantly earlier than the current 2020 date now approved by state regulators.

In Colorado, last April, the Sierra Club and a strong coalition of environmental groups helped pass legislation – the Clean Air Clean Jobs Act – which requires action from Xcel Energy on its coal fleet and clean energy.

“All summer and fall, we and our coalition allies have been advocating before Colorado’s Public Utilities Commission and organizing Colorado’s public health and clean energy voices to speak loudly and often in support of retirement of as much of Xcel’s coal fleet as possible,” said Alex Levinson of the Sierra Club.

“Our aim has been to provide critical public support for PUC Commissioners and Xcel Energy to do the right thing….(and provide) critical expert support demonstrating the economic wisdom for Colorado ratepayers of a move away from coal – with all its regulatory uncertainty and rate volatility.”

These western U.S. victories show a continued move away from coal and toward clean energy. At this rate, we will have locked down the retirement of ten percent of the coal fleet in the West (a total of 33,000 megawatts) in early 2011.

Coal is coming down, which in turn opens up the market place, and clean energy is stepping in.  The path forward is clear, the west is headed towards clean energy.

(This includes experts from a weekly blog post from Mary Anne Hitt, Director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign.)

One Response to How the West is Winning Against Coal

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