WHEELING, W.Va. — This year, utility providers are expected to extinguish as much as 45 gigawatts of coal-fired electricity – enough to power as many as 45 million homes.
Furthermore, U.S. electricity generators consumed 29 percent less coal in 2015 than in 2007. If the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan goes into full effect, the U.S. Energy Information Administration projects domestic consumption of coal will fall from 873 million tons in 2015 to just 664 million tons by 2030.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the Environmental Protection Agency could not implement the Clean Power Plan until the regulation’s constitutionality was determined. Now, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton are demanding the EPA stop spending federal tax dollars to implement the rule.
In their letter to the agency, the attorneys general said that despite the Supreme Court’s stay of the Clean Power Plan, the EPA has expended funds to help states plan for compliance with it. This, they believe, is improper.
“The entire point of the Supreme Court’s extraordinary action in putting a stop to the power plan was to preserve the status quo pending the outcome of the litigation,” Morrisey said earlier this week. “EPA should respect that action by leaving things the way they are until the courts have had their say.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is refuting “out-of-state attacks” regarding his commitment to defending the coal industry.
“I am a part of the lawsuit opposing (President Barack) Obama’s Clean Power Plan, standing with attorneys general and governors from across the country,” Manchin said.
According to the EPA, the Clean Power Plan will prevent at least 3,600 premature deaths and prevent 90,000 asthma attacks per year as it cuts carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by 32 percent compared with 2005 levels.
While coal-dependent states continue challenging the legality of the regulations, the EIA is studying how demand for coal – and the related carbon emissions – will change if they take full effect.
Energy Information Administration officials state that carbon dioxide pollution from electricity generation is now 21 percent below 2005 levels. If the Clean Power Plan goes into full effect, these emissions are supposed to be 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.
However, even if it does not take effect, EIA projects carbon emissions from electricity generation to be “well below” the 2005 benchmark.
Coal provided 51 percent of the nation’s electricity in 2005, but its share of the energy portfolio had fallen to 34 percent by 2015.
American Electric Power extinguished 5.5 coal-fired gigawatts across Appalachia last year, as the firm joined other utilities in turning off a total of 14 gigawatts of coal generation in the U.S. in 2015. However, the EIA projects another 40-45 gigawatts of coal generation to go dark this year, as a combination of EPA regulations and relatively cheap natural gas are drastically reducing demand for coal.
Consumption of coal used for electricity generation in the U.S. has already fallen from its peak of 1.045 billion tons in 2007 to 739 million tons in 2015 as power companies turn away from coal in anticipation that the Clean Power Plan and the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards will ultimately withstand legal challenges to become law.
Meanwhile, Manchin vows he will continue fighting to keep coal relevant.
“From my first day in the Senate, I’ve fought against Obama’s war on coal, his out-of-touch public policies, and will continue to defend West Virginia’s way of life against any group, any politician and any president,” Manchin said. “The D.C. lobbyists and out-of-state billionaires attacking me are trying to fool West Virginians about my record, even though they know that no senator has a longer and more successful record of taking on the EPA and standing up for coal than me.”