New Emissions Regulations Are Changing the Coal-Fired Power Plants Industry

Coal-fired power plants are feeling serious effects from new emissions regulations. Some plants are even shutting their doors for good, like the one in Mississagua, Ontario. This coal-fired power plant site will be transformed into a mixed-use community, according to World Coal. This Lakeview generating station was one of five shut down Ontario Power Generation coal-fired power plants that contributed to climate change.

In other areas of the world, however, the plants are getting creative to avoid shutdown. Somehow, coal-fired power plants in Pennsylvania cut their smog-forming emissions by more than half last year, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Their emissions of nitrogen oxides, or NOx, at the six plants throughout the state that burn newly mined coal exclusively dropped 60% last year from the previous year to 23,133 tons. At the Keystone Generating Station, a 50-year-old station in Pennsylvania, emissions of NOx dropped 54% to 6,095 tons last year from the year before, despite the fact that the planted actually burned more coal in 2017.

Coal-fired power plants provided roughly 33% of U.S. electric power in 2015 alone, and the industry wants to keep that alive. Vince Brisini, director of environmental affairs at Olympus Power LLC, anowner of the big Keystone plant and another nearby coal-burning plant, wants to do what he can to protect his plant and his employees.

“This regulation will not force any coal-fired units to retire,” Brisini said.

Brisini said that he had never seen emissions drop so rapidly across a state. He also said that the regulations allows enough flexibility for the power plants to function cost-effectively. The Reasonably Available Control Technology II rules was implemented in Pennsylvania so that the state could meet the federal emission standards of 2008. This rule requires power plants to operate existing control for pollution more often. It also needs to operate in a way that considers chemistry of electricity generation while still allowing the plant to run efficiently, according to industry officials.

Brisini actually helped come up with this rule when he worked at the state Department of Environmental Protection.

“This rule was written to achieve the necessary environmental outcome,” he said. “It was not written with the idea that you want to force people out of business.”

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