2007. A rough year for coal – 59 plants cancelled!

Written by Matt Leonard

Topics: Finance

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Ahh, 2007. What a year. The iPhone made its debut (got one). The Harry Potter series comes to an end (never read a single one). Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, OJ Simpson, Kid Rock, and Senator Larry Craig all went to jail. (As did I, but for the climate, not driving drunk or bathroom kink). Al Gore won a Nobel Prize for the climate (but, we still think he should be in jail).

But Fox news has forgotten to mention that in 2007, all our organizing has started to pay off on the fight against coal-fired power plants! Based on research compiled by Coal Moratorium Now! - 59 proposed coal plants were cancelled or severely delayed last year!

Despite the attempts of coal-industry front groups (like Americans for Balanced Energy Choices) to portray coal as a necessary or desirable aspect of our future – the fact is it’s a dirty thing of the past. They can pump millions of dollars into sponsoring presidential debates, slick advertising campaigns, or dishonest marketing slogans like “clean coal” – but the fact is, we aren’t buying it. And slowly but surely, regulators, politicians, utilities, and investors (what RAN is focusing on) aren’t buying it either – they are moving to energy efficiency and clean renewable sources as the smart choices for our future.

Check out the press release below – and help spread the word! Thanks for the hard work and support – your efforts make ARE making a difference!


Proposed Coal Plants Losing Steam

59 Coal Plants Cancelled or Shelved in 2007

SAN FRANCISCO—Fifty-nine proposed coal-fired power plants were cancelled or shelved during 2007, according to research compiled by Coal Moratorium NOW! and Rainforest Action Network. Both groups are calling for a moratorium on the construction of new coal-fired power plants.

The list, including documentation, is posted online at “Coal Plants Cancelled in 2007.” It includes data supplied by Sierra Club, coalSwarm, the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Lab, and utility industry sources.

“Coal-fired power plants are the wrong investment for our climate, our health, and our economy,” said Becky Tarbotton, director of Rainforest Action Network’s Global Finance Campaign. “Utilities, regulators, and investors are realizing that the path ahead is energy efficiency and renewable energy. It’s time to stop financing and building coal and to start funding the future.”

Ted Nace, founder of Coal Moratorium NOW! said, “Although we knew that many plants were being nixed, we were stunned by the total number. It spells real hope for the movement seeking to blunt the coal rush.”

Because coal is the largest contributor to the human-made increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide, coal plants are at the top of the list of global warming threats cited by climate scientists. Dr. James Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Space Center, the world’s largest climate research agency, told Congress on April 26, 2007, that a moratorium on new coal plants is “the most critical action for saving the planet at this time.”

Among the study’s conclusions:

· Climate concerns played a role in at least 15 plant cancellations. These included five plants in Florida, where Gov. Charlie Crist has made global warming a top issue; a three-unit plant in Kansas opposed by Gov. Kathleen Sibelius; and several plants affected by strict new carbon regulations in western states.

· Coal plants disappeared entirely from some utilities’ long-range plans: Increasingly, coal plants were cancelled before they could even be named, due to increasing regulatory scrutiny of long-range integrated resource plans by states such as Oregon and California.

· Renewables began elbowing out coal: Regulators in several states favored utility-scale renewables over coal. In Delaware, regulators cancelled a coal power plant proposed by NRG Energy in favor of an alternative proposal that combined wind and natural gas. In California, the combination of a strict carbon emissions standard and a renewable portfolio standard prompted utilities to enter into contracts for large thermal solar projects sponsored by Ausra, BrightSource, and Solel.

· Grassroots opposition mounted, financial markets cooled to coal: After a spate of enthusiasm in 2006, coal plant financiers in 2007 recoiled from escalating construction costs; litigation by environmental groups; and public opposition to coal expressed through rallies, sit-ins, petitions, and local referenda in Texas, Maine, Montana, Utah, Iowa, Minnesota, Virginia, and elsewhere. As sponsors ran into difficulty raising funds, numerous projects were quietly abandoned.

· More plants were abandoned than rejected: Of the 59 cancelled or sidetracked projects, only 15 were rejected outright by regulators, courts, or local authorities. In the remaining 44 cases, the decision was made by the sponsors themselves. Besides climate concerns, leading reasons for abandoning plants include (1) rapidly rising construction costs, (2) insufficient financing or failure to receive hoped-for government subsidies, and (3) lowered estimates of demand.

· Heavy spending but poor results for “clean coal”: Despite a multi-million dollar advertising campaign by the coal industry in support of its “clean coal” message, the public was unconvinced. An October poll by Opinion Research Corporation showed that 75 percent of American adults would support a five-year moratorium on new coal plants if funding for renewable alternatives was increased and efficiency standards were tightened.

Background on the Coal Boom

After mainly building natural gas turbines during the 1980s and 1990s, utilities returned to coal when natural gas prices jumped in 2000. In May 2007, the Department of Energy’s “Tracking New Coal-Fired Power Plants” (5/07) study counted 151 proposed coal plants. Five months later, “Tracking New Coal-Fired Power Plants” (10/07) counted 121 proposed plants. According to a survey completed in the first week of January 2008 by Coal Moratorium NOW! and Rainforest Action Network, the number of proposed plants (including those under construction or recently completed) now stands at 113. Details on the study may be seen at the following links:

· “Coal Plants Cancelled in 2007

· Proposed Coal Plants: state-by-state descriptions

· Proposed Coal Plants: spreadsheet

· Table of Proposed Coal Plants by Expected Year of Completion

· Table of Proposed Coal Plants by Type of Utility

· Table of Proposed Coal Plants by Region


Coal Moratorium NOW! (http://cmNOW.org) tracks the coal boom and advocates for a moratorium on new coal plants. Together with the Center for Media and Democracy, Coal Moratorium NOW! also co-sponsors www.coalSwarm.org, a coal-oriented wiki. Contact: info@cmNOW.org or Ted Nace at 510-331-8743.

Rainforest Action Network (http://www.dirtymoney.org) runs hard-hitting campaigns to break America’s oil addiction, reduce our reliance on coal, protect endangered forests and indigenous rights, and stop destructive investments around the world through education, grassroots organizing, and non-violent direct action.

11 Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. Toben says:

    This is the best news Ive heard this year. That’s a lot of rocks being left in the ground and I suspect more than a few mountains not getting their tops blown off.

    It would be interesting to see a number on the amount of CO2 NOT being emitted into the atmosphere as a result of these plants being grounded.

  2. Roger says:

    Research conducted by Americans for Balanced Energy Choices (ABEC) contradicts recent claims by critics that coal-fueled power plant construction has died. In addition, the research identified substantial benefits, including economical and environmental returns, resulting from the construction of several new coal-fueled power plants nationwide.

    Currently, there are more than 120 coal-fueled power plants currently under or near construction, permitted or in the early stages of development. The US EIA projects the need for an average of 6,000 megawatts (MW) per year through 2030.

    The breakdown of new plants according to status and capacity is:
    • Currently under construction: 24 (capacity 12,506 MW)
    • Near construction: 8 (capacity 4,565 MW)
    • Permitted: 13 (capacity 23,240 MW)
    • Announced: 76 (48, 440 MW)

    “According to the US Energy Information Association (EIA), electricity demand nationwide will nearly double in the next 20 years. With a 250-year supply of coal, the United States is in a position to leverage its most abundant domestic resource to provide secure, affordable energy,” said Joe Lucas, ABEC executive director.

    Lucas clearly admits that there have been some high profile coal projects that have either been delayed or cancelled. “But the research shows there are many more projects that have been approved and under construction than have been cancelled,” said Lucas.

    Lucas acknowledged that a lot can happen between when a project is announced and a permit is issued and a project begins construction. “But, in order to get a full appreciation of coal’s near-term future, you have to focus as much on what is being built rather just looking at instances where coal projects are in trouble,” said Lucas.

    “Construction of these new coal-fueled plants will not only make it possible to meet this growing electricity demand, but help further the development and deployment of technology that increases plant efficiencies and reduces emissions. During the past 35 years, the use of coal in the U.S. has nearly tripled, at the same time, air quality improved and emissions from coal-based electricity are 33 percent lower despite this increased use,” Lucas said.

    Lucas also said the research is more than just a running total of what is being built versus projects that have died. It also identifies technology deployment and economic impact.

    Every plant listed as under or near construction or permitted has proposed deploying technology including subcritical and supercritical pulverized coal (PC) technology, clean coal fluidized bed technology (CFB) or integrated gasification and combined cycle (IGCC) technology.

    Research indicates that coal, in addition to providing affordable electricity, plays an important role in other areas of a state’s economy. According to research, US coal-fueled electricity contributes $1.05 trillion in gross economic output, $362 billion in annual household incomes and 6.8 million jobs in 2015. As a result, halted or deferred plant development may result in insufficient electricity capacity growth, which would affect a state’s economic output, household income and job growth.

    “Not only does coal provide a constant, reliable flow of base load power, but its transmission capabilities can help further diversify a state’s energy portfolio. Many wind-generating power sites lack transmission lines needed to send the power to its customers. The construction of new coal-fueled plants can help further advance wind power by providing much needed transmission capabilities wind power generating sites currently lack,” Lucas said.

    The following is a list of coal-fueled plants currently under construction, its location and initial opening year:
    • Black Hills Wygen plant, Gillette, WY, 2008
    • Arkansas River Power Lamar plant, Lamar, CO, 2008
    • WPS Resources Weston plant, Rothschild, WI, 2008
    • Newmont Mining TS Power plant, Dunphy, NV, 2008
    • Santee Cooper Cross plant, Cross, SC, 2009
    • East Kentucky Power Spurlock plant, Maysville, KY, 2009
    • Omaha Public Power Nebraska City plant, Nebraska City, NE, 2009
    • Wisconsin Energy Elm Road plant, Milwaukee, WI, 2009
    • TXU Sandow Repower plant, Milam County, TX, 2009
    • San Antonio Spruce plant, San Antonio, TX, 2009
    • TXU Oak Grove plant, Franklin, TX, 2009
    • Salt River Power Springerville plant, Springerville, AZ, 2009
    • Springfield, IL Dallman plant, Lake Springfield, IL, 2010
    • Springfield, MO Southwest plant, Springfield, MO, 2010
    • LG&E Energy Trimble County plant, Trimble County, KY, 2010
    • Kansas City P&L Iatan plant, Weston, MO, 2010
    • LS Power Plum Point plant, Osceola, AR, 2010
    • GenPower/First Reserve Longview plant, Monongalia County, WV, 2011

  3. Luke says:

    How odd that a front group for the coal industry would have a different spin on things:

    “Formed in 2000 to develop astroturf support for coal-based electricity, Americans for Balanced Energy Choices (ABEC) promotes the interests of mining companies, coal transporters, and electricity producers. A domain name search reveals that ABEC’s website is registered to the coal industry trade organization Center for Energy and Economic Development. (ABEC originally used the http://www.balancedenergy.org domain but later switched to a website titled America’s Power” (Sourcewatch)

  4. Roger says:

    Doesn’t sound like spin to me. Sounds like facts!

    As a matter of FACT, I checked the Department of Energy’s Web site and it says the same.

    When you look at the numbers of those cancelled versus those approved, looks like the spin is coming from the enviros!!!

    Who’s spinning what????

  5. Matt Leonard says:

    Roger, please. Our list is well-cited – feel free do more than cut-and-paste ABEC’s statements.

    And actually – the DOE’s NETL lab publishes a document every few months called “Tracking New Coal-Fired Power Plants”. Their report back in May listed 151 proposed plants in their databse. But then their next report in October listed only 121. What happened?

    Well – check out our report and you’ll see what happened. If 30 were down the tubes between just May and October – we’ll tell you what happened between January and December.


  6. Roger says:

    Boy Matt…last time I checked 121 is a heckuva lot more than 59!!!

    By the way Matt…since you are so astute on our energy crisis…how do you think we’ll be able to meet electricity demand without rolling blackouts and skyrocketing electricity bills??? Especially since you think that 50% of the country’s fuel can just be eliminated?????

  7. Roger says:

    In fact….chances are all of you live off coal every day unless you live life without electricity.

    So…it’s hypocritical to bash our most secure, affordable energy source when in fact, each of you use it!

    Furthermore…coal is what’s able to help you actually afford electricity!

    What’s the answer to that?

    And no…I’m not an employee of the coal industry….just some one who is rational!

  8. Luke says:

    It’s true that anyone who uses electricity uses coal. What can they do about it? Help campaign against coal. Like we do. In fact, whether you use coal or not, you (and your children) will suffer the consequences of coal extraction and combustion. The only thing you can do to help prevent them is to take action.

  9. sparki says:

    hey Roger– don’t you think it’s time to shift off dependency to finite fossil fuels like oil and coal to energy sources that are renewable and sustainable. i thought the whole idea of “conservative” was to conserve. why not start by “conserving” our energy sources, the eco-systems which house fossil fuels and the communities negatively impacted by their extraction.

    if you really want to see the impact of coal go to southern west virginia and see how your energy needs are wrecking lives and destroying the Appalachian mountains.

  10. Roger says:

    Hey Luke and Sparki:
    Have you ever thought what would happen if you eliminate a fuel source that accounts for more than half our electricity?

    It’s called skyrocketing electricity bills and rolling blackouts!

    Sure renewables have a purpose, but have you ever heard of base load versus intermittent power?

    Renewables CANNOT provide 24-7 base load electricity generation! What happens when the sun isn’t shining and wind isn’t blowing??? Light a candle and rub your hands over the flame to keep warm?

    And what happens when you build your wind farm (which by the way requires massive land development and kills rare species of birds) and there is no transmission lines to carry the INTERMITTENT electricity to homes?

    And..what happens to people’s electricity bills when you eliminate coal out of the equation and replace it with higher cost fuels such as natural gas? I guess you just don’t care about the people, who even today, have to choose between heating their homes and eating!!!

    The answer is investing in the technology (just like we have done to meet any challenge in any industry) to make coal burn cleaner than it already is!!!!


  11. sparki says:

    It’s always strange to me when right-wingers and pro-coal proponents “get” us with their intellectual superiority on our blogs that they resort to name calling. I honestly think that when people like Roger get on the internet they are regressing to their schoolyard days when some bully pushed them around too much and now in abstract manner they can digitally push back.

    Regardless, come on Roger can’t you come up with something better than “skyrocketing electricity bills and rolling blackouts” and coal accounts for “50% of the country’s fuel” over and over? Got any original thoughts?

    How about nearly 500 hundred mountains have been decapitated by mountaintop removal coal mining leaving homes destroyed, streams and rivers polluted and buried and pristine wilderness destroyed so you can have cheap electricity?

    How about groundwater and air pollution from mercury spewed out by the combustion of coal in communities all over the country? There’s a reason that plans for 59 of the proposed 150+ plants have been scrapped. It’s because people all over the country are tired of having their children’s health bear the burden of your cheap easy energy needs.

    And then there’s the massive threat of global warming created by the burning of coal.

    Energy efficiency initiatives and renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power would allow the U.S. to reduce energy consumption by 20 percent by 2020 and obtain 80 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2050 (if the dinosaurs in the coal industry get out of the way and actually let that sector develop, unlikely as they continue to fund everything obstacle to climate progress from climate skeptics to corrupt politicians that support their coal ridden way of life.)

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