In West Virginia, at least one unit at the following power plants will retire because of the two EPA rules:
The Kammer plant in Marshall County, built in 1958, retiring 630 MW
and the Kanawha River plant in Kanawha County, built in 1953, retiring 410 MW.
Coal "is the fuel that is local to this area," said Leonard Hopkins, the fuel and compliance manager for the Southern Illinois Power Cooperative, which serves rural electric customers in 25 counties in the state. "We are scrambling to find ways to comply."
His options: switch to a lower sulfur coal, install additional pollution controls or retire the oldest boiler and buy cheaper power from elsewhere.
For many of the country's oldest coal-fired plants, retirement is the cheapest option.
"It is more expensive to retrofit these plants than retire them and build new generation," said Chris Whelan, spokeswoman for Kentucky Utilities, which announced in September that it was retiring three coal-fired power plants in the state. The plants, which came on line in 1947, 1962 and 1950, employ 204 people.
Whelan said the company is "going to do everything we can to reallocate the work" by shifting employees to a new gas-fired power plant.
In some places, a job at the power plant is the best thing going.
Thirty people work at the Central Electric Power Cooperative plant in Chamois, Mo., where EPA regulations have put the plant in danger of shutting down. Some employees are looking to see if there are other power plants where they could find work.
"We always knew there was a chance we could get shut down," said Robert Skaggs, who has worked at the 50-year-old power plant for 10 years and is also an alderman in the town of 400. "It's pretty obvious. Our plant is an old plant."
Chamois Mayor Jim Wright saw the sewing factory leave and doesn't understand why coal has to do the same.
"Coal's coal. If you are going to dig and ship it to China, you might as well burn it here," he said.
Electricity bills are also a concern.
Kentucky Utilities expects its customers to see as much as a 14 percent rate increase to make up for the $800 million it is spending to replace what will be retired, and the $1.1 billion it plans to spend on anti-pollution upgrades. Other power companies have applied to recoup the cost of retrofits or of building new gas-fired power plants. The EPA estimates that industry will spend $11 billion complying with the two rules by 2016.
For others, the biggest issue with plant retirements is the loss of property taxes. As plants wind down and close, their assessed value drops, reducing what they pay to local governments.
In Salem, Mass., Dominion plans to retire two units at the Salem Harbor Station later this year, a move that could halve the plant's workforce in a town famous for its 17th century witch trials and where the major business is tourism.
The loss of its 50-year-old power plant poses two dilemmas: how to replace its biggest taxpayer and what to do with the 60 acres of waterfront property when the plant is gone.
"It's not like losing a Dunkin' Donuts," said Mayor Kim Driscoll, noting that attractions such as Baltimore's Inner Harbor took decades to redevelop from abandoned industrial property.
For the next five years, Salem will make up for Dominion's dwindling $4.75 million tax bill with state money, but after that the future is unclear.
"It's a big chunk of change when you're looking at we still have the same number of kids in school, we still have the same number of calls for police and fire, we have the same number of parks and resources that need to be maintained and kept up," Driscoll said. "That's not to say there aren't folks locally that are happy with the fact that a coal-based plant won't be here forever. There are certainly folks here that see it as a way for Salem to flourish in other ways."