Old coal-fired generating plants are among the dirtiest polluters in the nation. They cause smog and spew out huge amounts of greenhouse gases, toxic ash, and a variety of chemicals. "Why are they allowed to do it?" you might ask. Because in its wisdom, Congress grandfathered these plants under amendments to the Clean Air Act in a way that created very powerful economic incentives to stay dirty... and get dirtier as they age. After eight years of a purposely impotent EPA, under the Obama administration the agency seems to be moving to updating regulations under the Clean Air Act and other pollution laws. There's more about the dirty deals, the grandfathered polluters, and how the politics of profits have trumped rational antipollution steps at grist.
Since these old coal-fired plants are the problem, you may be thinking the best thing to do is build new plants like the proposed Cypress Creek Power Station in Surry County, Virginia. A new plant would have the latest in antipollution technology and be much cleaner... I didn't say clean... there is no such thing as clean coal. That argument is pretty hollow unless as a condition of opening the plant older coal-fired plants are closed and dismantled in an environmentally responsible manner. I've not heard of that being on the table.
Besides, any coal-fired plant brings a variety of environmental concerns and other issues not only to Mother Earth, but more directly to nearby communities, rivers, and bays. A new plant wouldn't address all the profound questions about disposal of coal ash, the rape of our mountaintops, and degrading of our communities.
It seems some on Wall Street are questioning the future of coal by cutting off the dollars for new mountaintop removal coal mines as too risky. If this cheap coal source dries up, the profitability of coal-fired plants will be threatened, and greener/cleaner alternatives more viable. It is way too early to declare King Coal dethroned, but it is increasingly becoming clear to many that this king has no clothes that will be fashionable in America's energy future.
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