In their March announcement, federal officials proposed the first-ever national standard for toxic air pollutants from coal-fired power plants, based on a congressional mandate included in the 1990 Clean Air Act.
EPA officials estimate the proposal could save an estimated 17,000 lives a year, creating $59 billion in benefits a year by 2016, while costing industry $10.9 billion per year to comply.
Columbus, Ohio-based AEP had announced last year that it planned to retire at least 5,000 megawatts of coal-fired generation, in part because of expected EPA rules to reduce emissions of toxic mercury and other hazardous air pollutants. And in its new Corporate Accountability Report, AEP says that replacing older coal plants with gas generation will help it reduce greenhouse gas emissions and meet any eventual federal limits on those emissions.
AEP said it has spent more than $7.2 billion since 1990 to reduce emissions from its coal-fired power plants.
But like most utilities, AEP has targeted those expenditures, installing advanced sulfur dioxide scrubbers and nitrogen oxide controls on newer and larger facilities. In West Virginia, most of AEP's pollution-control advances were installed John Amos in Putnam County, at the Mountaineer Plant in Mason County, and at the Mitchell Plant adjacent to Kammer.
None of the three West Virginia plants targeted for closure has the most advanced pollution reduction equipment. As a result, while the smaller plants like Kanawha River emit less pollution overall, they generate far more emissions per unit of power produced.
Earlier this year, the Tennessee Valley Authority announced it would retire 18 older coal-fired units at three of its power plants. TVA described the move as part of its "vision of being one of the nation's leading providers of low-cost and cleaner energy by 2020."
"The coal plants targeted for phase-out lack modern pollution controls and contribute to thousands of premature deaths, asthma attacks and heart attacks every year," said Mary Anne Hitt, director of the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign. "It is time to replace these dirty and dangerous energy sources with clean, safe and reliable forms of production that will create thousands of jobs and revitalize local communities."
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.