Massachusetts Power Station Closure Marks 150th Retirement of U.S Coal Plants

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Written By: Emma Websdale

Yesterday the Sierra Club and a growing alliance of local and regional supporters announced the retirement of its 150th coal plant – the second biggest carbon dioxide emitter in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
1491608255The Brayton Point Power Station, the largest of six coal-fired facilities in New England, filed retirement paperwork on Monday and will no longer provide power as of May 2017. The plant’s closure, a substantial milestone in the ongoing 2010 campaign to move the U.S. away from coal produced energy by 2030 marks the retirement of its 150th plant.  

A few short months before retiring, the plant, bought by Dominion spent,$1.1 billion in attempt to modernize its operations, including the burning of natural gas and oil. Despite these efforts, a report by an investment research firm estimated that the plant would lose $3 million in 2014 due to competition from low electricity prices provided from the U.S.’s large boom in natural gas.

Further investments needed to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency’s rules for carbon dioxide emissions also concerned the plant’s owners since the plant discharged 3.26 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions in 2011.

According to the Clean Air Task Force, the retirement of all 150-coal fired plants will, collectively, help save 4,000 lives, prevent 6,200 heart attacks and 66,300 asthma attacks on a yearly basis. Meanwhile, health costs associated with the plants closures would lower by $1.9 billion a year.

“Plant by plant and community by community we are not only curbing our country’s carbon pollution, but we are also saying lives”, said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. “By moving our country off dirty, dangerous coal, we are creating new opportunities for clean energy and thousands of new American jobs to protect workers and public health.”

He added, “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.

A recent report from Environment America found that the U.S.’s 100 dirtiest plants (98 of these being coal-fired), accounted for half of the nation’s power sectors carbon emissions. As of 2011, ten of these have been scheduled for retirement.

With increasing pressure from a fossil fuel divestment campaign, utilities and energy companies are starting to realize that the coal industry is increasingly becoming a riskier investment and instead, are transitioning to cleaner, renewable energy sources.

According to Sierra Club, the U.S. has currently more than 60,000 megawatts of installed wind capacity – enough to power 15 million homes. Furthermore, in 2012 states including South Dakota and Iowa generated 20% of their energy from wind.

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