Coal Plant Shutdowns: One Small Victory for Environmentalists

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The New Republic's Brad Plumer calls attention to a new set of EPA regulations that have nothing to do with greenhouse gas emissions -- but that may end up doing more to reduce them than any legislation Congress passes this year. The EPA is currently proposing a new set of air pollution regulations that will significantly affect coal plants. While the agency has drafted carbon emissions rules that will go into place in January, these regulations target non-greenhouse gases: sulfur-dioxide, mercury, and nitrogen-dioxide:

Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA is required to continually update pollution limits to reflect the latest science. The U.S. District Court, for instance, has ordered the EPA to set new mercury standards by the end of next year. As a result, new rules are now coming down the pike on smog-forming pollutants, on mercury, on coal ash... None of these regulations have anything to do with climate change per se. But according to industry analysts, many coal plants will have to shut down as a result, and that will affect the carbon picture quite significantly.

So what will take the place of the crippled coal plants?

Right now, many power companies are leaning toward cleaner natural gas, which is expected to stay cheap thanks to the recent discovery of vast new shale reserves. But some utilities may lean toward renewable sources like solar or wind--or even invest in efficiency, the cheapest power source of all.

Read the full story at The New Republic.

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Nicole Allan is a former senior editor at The Atlantic.

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