Retiring old, polluting coal plants

More than a week ago, Progress Energy Carolinas announced plans to shutter the more elderly members of its coal fleet: about 1500 megawatts worth of boilers built from 1949-1972. Ultimately, the utility's decision came down to dollars and sense. With stricter environmental regulations forthcoming, as well as further crackdowns on pollution drifting state-to-state, Progress made a pragmatic, responsible decision, one that ultimately protects public health and lessens our state's cumulative impact on climate change. Of course, the NC Utilities Commission must now approve the utility's plans.

Progress should be commended for going one step further than shelving plans to build new plants, but actually taking steps to retire existing plants. The Progress media release, as well as published reports, mention the possibility of converting plants to natural gas.

The lack of commercially viable carbon capture and sequestration technology surely factored into the shift away from coal, and John Murawski at the N & O posits just that. Other factors: a possible "hazardous waste" finding by the EPA on coal ash, concerns about mountaintop removal mining methods, and expected federal legislation to address climate change emissions. All signs point to a recognition of the true cost of North Carolina's "cheap" coal-provided energy.

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