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Cleaner Energy is Coming to Missouri as Utility Announces Coal Plant Retirements

Power plant near St Joseph MO

An aerial view of Kansas City Power & Light power plant near St. Joseph, Missouri

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Last week, Kansas City Power & Light (KCP&L) announced plans to reduce its coal-generating capacity by nearly 20 percent over the next six years, retiring aging units at three power plants in St. Joseph, Clinton and Sibley, Missouri that would require substantial new investments to continue operating.

“After evaluating options for future environmental regulation compliance, ending coal use at these plants is the most cost effective and cleanest option for our customers,” said Terry Bassham, CEO of KCP&L.

What the CEO failed to say is over the last three years Earthjustice has been working in Missouri Public Service Commission (PSC) proceedings to ensure that KCP&L fully and fairly analyzes the costs of its aging coal units as compared to cleaner, lower cost alternatives. Once KCP&L was forced to compare options, it became clear that retiring these coal units was the better economic and environmental choice.

Wind turbine near Rock Port, Missouri.
One of several wind turbines next to a barn near Rock Port, Missouri. Renewable energy sources are rapidly becoming a better investment than outdated coal power plants.
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KCP&L is hardly alone in coming to this decision. Due to the combined impact of the aging of our nation’s coal infrastructure, the long-overdue implementation and enforcement of environmental standards restricting pollution from coal plants, and the rapidly growing availability of low-cost renewable energy resources, the economics are increasingly favoring a shift away from dirty coal power and toward clean energy. 

Earthjustice is working to accelerate that shift by:

  1. Litigating in state Public Service Commissions, in Missouri and throughout the country, to stop utilities from shifting the high cost of dirty coal onto their captive customers
  2. Ensuring that our environmental laws are stringently enforced against dirty coal plants
  3. Establishing policies that will allow and encourage further development of clean energy resources

These efforts, combined with advocacy and litigation by our clients and partners, have helped lead to numerous coal plant retirements, including the ones announced by KCP&L last week.

While KCP&L’s announcement is a promising step in the right direction, there is more work to do.  KCP&L recently filed an application to raise rates on its customers by 15.75% that would largely pay for continuing investments in coal.  We will continue to engage in this and other Missouri PSC proceedings to ensure that the Kansas City region’s transition from dirty coal to clean, renewable energy continues.