150th Coal Plant Closes in the US

This week marks the retirement of the 150th coal plant in the US, with the announcement that Brayton Point Power Station in Massachusetts will close by 2017.

The 50-year old coal plant is New England’s biggest (1.5 gigawatts), supplying energy to 1.5 million homes – and the region’s biggest polluter.

"A perfect storm" of circumstances has created a bleak outlook for coal-fired power plants in the US, David Schlissel of the Conservation Law Foundation told Providence Journal. "The price of natural gas, coal’s chief competitor these days, is historically low. Overall demand for power is weak because the economy hasn’t fully recovered. And utilities are increasingly being required to purchase electricity from renewable sources, including wind and solar."

Coal Plant Massachusetts Closing

"You put all those factors together and it’s not economic to operate Brayton Point," says Schlissel. Brayton is the newest and cleanest of New England’s 6 coal plants, so if this plant can’t make it, it doesn’t bode well for the others. Two in Massachusetts are already planning to close.

Last year, coal supplied just 3% of New England’s power while natural gas provided 52%, according to ISO-New England. 

What Closing 150 Coal Plants Means

Besides being the leading source of US greenhouse gases, coal burning causes almost half the mercury emissions – correlated with developmental problems in babies and young children – and contributes to four out of the five leading causes of death – heart disease, cancer, stroke, and respiratory illness. 

Closing these old, outdated coal plants will prevent 66,300  asthma attacks each year, 6200 heart attacks and 4000 deaths, according to the Clean Air Task Force. In all, these plants are responsible for $1.9 billion in health costs.

Remaining coal plants cause pollution that kills 13,000 Americans each year, says NYC Mayor Bloomberg, whose foundation donated $50 million to the Sierra Club for its Beyond Coal campaign.

The goal is to retire a third of the oldest coal plants in the US by 2020. Since 2010, Sierra Club has facilitated the closure of coal plants producing more than 51 gigawatts of energy and has blocked construction of 153 new plants – only one new coal plant has broken ground since 2008. It’s one of the major reasons behind falling emissions in the US

"Coal is a self-inflicted public health risk, polluting the air we breathe, adding mercury to our water, and the leading cause of climate disruption," says Bloomberg.

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Comments on “150th Coal Plant Closes in the US”

  1. dvbarry

    where can I find the list of closed coal plants? Perhaps one of them would be adaptable to burning biomass? Look forward to any help.


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