In a landmark settlement, American Electric Power has agreed to retire three dinosaur coal plants by 2015 and replace some of that energy with wind and solar in Indiana and Michigan.
And, in a separate announcement, the nation's largest utility, Duke Energy, is "modernizing" its portfolio by closing old coal plants - 6800 MW by 2015 - and building one new coal plant and several natural gas plants to replace them.
American Electric Power is retiring three coal plants in Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky, which supply 2011 megawatts of polluting energy. Closing them will eliminate 12 million tons of carbon emissions and 84,000 tons of sulfur dioxide pollution each year, which results in 203 deaths, 310 heart attacks, 3,160 asthma attacks and 188 emergency room visits per year, according to the Clean Air Task Force.
"Tanners Creek, Big Sandy and Muskingum River are dirty and outdated plants that should have been cleaned up or retired decades ago," says Shannon Fisk, an attorney with Earthjustice. "We're glad AEP is going to retire these aging dinosaurs, and urge the company to ensure an equitable transition for the workers and communities most directly impacted by these retirements."
"With enormous potential for jobs in clean energy and energy efficiency, it is critical that AEP use the next three years to invest in affordable clean energy projects and transition workers into new careers," says Jesse Kharbanda, executive director of the Hoosier Environmental Council. "By replacing decades-old coal plants with homegrown, clean and affordable energy sources, AEP can do right by affected workers and their families, and continue clean energy job creation across Indiana and Ohio."
In addition to closing the plants, the utility will install pollution prevention technology at a massive coal plant in Indiana, and will develop 50 MW of wind or solar this year and 150 MW by 2015.
The US EPA, eight states including New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Jersey; and 13 citizens groups filed the lawsuit. Citizens groups are: Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, Ohio Citizen Action, Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana, Hoosier Environmental Council, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, West Virginia Environmental Council, Clean Air Council, Environment America, National Wildlife Federation, League of Ohio Sportsmen, Izaak Walton League and Indiana Wildlife Federation. The Environmental Law & Policy Center represented citizen groups in the case.
Last year, American Electric Power announced it would close five other coal plants by 2014. The company recently failed in court to prevent the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions, but it succeeded in the Supreme Court against six states that sued to get it to upgrade their plants.
In January, a settlement with Warren Buffet's utility, MidAmerican, resulted in the closure of seven coal plants, upgrading two others and a commitment to a large solar project.
142 coal plants have been retired or announced they would retire since 2010, totally over 57,000 MW in the US. Power plants are the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the US, producing a third of all emissions.
American Electric Power is one of the largest electric utilities in the US, delivering electricity to more than 5 million customers in 11 states from plants that generate about 38,000 MW of electricity.