New York on Track to End Coal-Fired Power Plant Emissions by 2020

May 13, 2019 by Dan McCue

New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation last week adopted the final elements of a regulatory regime intended to end carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants in the state by the end of 2020.

Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo first announced the phase out in 2016, and the new regulations put such stringent limits on the allowable emissions from coal-fired plants as to make it virtually impossible for them to continue to operate in their present configuration.

The requirements were adopted on Thursday, May 9, and will go into effect on June 8.

“As our federal government continues to support the dying fossil fuel industry, deny climate change, and roll back environmental protections, New York is leading the nation with bold climate action to protect our planet and our communities,” Governor Cuomo said in a written statement.

“With the adoption of these final regulations, we are taking yet another step toward a cleaner, greener, long-term energy solution to safeguard the environment for generations to come,” he said.

Coal has long been on the wane in New York, and currently makes up less than 1 percent of energy production in the state, according to the New York Independent System Operator, the state’s independent grid operator.

At present, there are only two coal-fired power plants operating in New York state. They are both located upstate and are owned by Beowulf Energy.

In a statement, Beowulf Energy Managing Director Michael Enright said a proposed transition plan would retire the plants before the emissions deadline “while creating a viable new business and jobs in their place, using renewable energy.”

The company reportedly plans to convert parts of both facilities into data centers.

The regulations promulgated by the state Department of Environmental Conservation tighten the state’s CO2 Performance Standards for Major Electric Generating Facilities by establishing CO2 emission rate requirements for existing major electric generating facilities.

This will ensure the state’s remaining coal fired power plants transition to cleaner, alternative sources of energy or shut down by 2020.

Governor Cuomo said the state stands ready to help workers and communities transition to a clean energy future through the Governor’s Clean Climate Careers initiative created to address the needs of the local communities affected by any closures, as well as a host of clean energy programs to support transitioning these plants away from coal.

In addition to rules adopted last week, the state’s environmental regulators in February proposed regulations to restrict nitrogen oxides emissions from peaking power plants.

These regulations will reduce greenhouse gas emissions to help achieve 40 percent by 2030 and shift to 100 percent clean electricity by 2040, the governor’s office said.

In the meantime, the new regulations “represent real action on climate change,” said New York Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos. “By eliminating the burning of coal for electricity, New York is cementing our place in history as the nation’s leading environmental champion and helping all our communities realize the economic potential of environmental funding and climate action.”

On a related note, Governor Cuomo blasted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last Thursday for rejecting a state petition asking the agency to enforce existing requirements on polluters from “upwind states” to limit pollution impacting New York’s air quality.

Cuomo called the EPA’s decision to reject the petition “one more example of this administration’s full frontal assault on our environment and public health.

“Air pollution does not respect state borders, so while we are implementing nation-leading air quality standards in New York State, we cannot solve this problem alone,” he said.

“Unfortunately, the Trump Administration, once again, proved they do not care what kind of air we are leaving our kids and grandkids to breathe.

“This administration will do everything in our power to fight back against this week’s egregious decision. We are not just talking about ideas in New York – we are putting them into action, and we need the federal government to step up and do its part,” the governor said.

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