EPA orders 13 coal-fired power plants to close — and lowers the cost of generating electricity

It was the most momentous setback yet for coal-fired power plants, exposing their financial vulnerability to rising costs caused by global environmental regulations.

On Thursday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved a new rule aimed at limiting emissions of nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide from power plants. Although Congress signed off on the measure in 2015, the EPA issued the final version last year, after facing some opposition. As the rule was slated to take effect Friday, power companies announced plans to shut about 13 power plants that were built before 1970, the year acid rain pollution protections were passed by Congress, the New York Times reports.

The plants responsible for the planned shutdowns include coal-fired units in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and West Virginia.

As part of Thursday’s action, the EPA also asked its regional officials across the country to cut pollution from those plants by an average of 20 percent to address issues arising from climate change.

“This is good news for those communities who will benefit from cleaner air,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said in a statement. “The rule also signals that President Trump’s administration is determined to undo the harmful job-killing policies passed under President Obama.”

The action raises the cost of generating electricity for some customers, the Times notes, forcing many to switch to gas-fired power sources. Meanwhile, regulations banning coal-burning power plants are threatening already expensive investment in cleaner-burning natural gas. Coal companies have announced plans to begin laying off workers and reducing their capital expenditures.

“In any situation where regulations cost your business, you don’t build, you lay people off,” said Brian L. O’Neill, a partner at law firm Fenwick & West. He said the group he heads was filing a legal brief on behalf of 27 coal companies and 10 power companies in support of the EPA’s decision.

Read the full story at The New York Times.

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