Coal-fired power plants are the biggest contributors to toxic air and water pollution and the single biggest source of greenhouse gases in the United States—they’re harming us, and our climate. When the Clean Air Act was passed decades ago, coal plants received special treatment that effectively exempted them from controlling their pollution and safely disposing of their waste, a gift that has allowed them to keep operating and profiting at the expense of Americans around the country who are getting sick and dying prematurely from exposure to coal plant pollution.
Coal-fired power plants release nearly 400,000 tons of hazardous air pollutants every year, including more than 40 percent of all man-made mercury emissions in the U.S. They also contribute more than 25% of all carbon dioxide emissions in the United States.
Earthjustice is targeting dirty coal plants by:
- Shutting down existing plants, especially the dirtiest and oldest plants. Thanks to new and strengthened pollution-control requirements, utilities across the country are currently deciding whether to invest in retrofitting old, highly polluting coal plants or to retire them and replace their capacity with cleaner solutions. Our attorneys work to influence these decisions and tip the scales in favor of retirement using a wide range of legal strategies, advocacy, and public outreach. Often this means advocating in public utility commissions to ensure that ratepayers are not footing the bill for unwise investments in dirty coal plants as opposed to cost-effective clean energy solutions.
- Preventing construction of new coal plants that would lock us into fossil fuel dependence for decades to come. Thanks to early successes won by Earthjustice and its allies—along with the economic recession, low natural gas prices, and regulatory uncertainty—the pace of new proposals in the pipeline has slowed considerably and few remain in play. However, this landscape could shift, which is why Earthjustice attorneys continue to monitor stalled proposals for indications that they may move forward.
- Securing and defending protective rules to prevent air, water, and waste pollution. Earthjustice has a long and successful history of advocacy for strong regulatory limits on sulfur dioxide, ozone and particulate matter pollution, as well as air toxics and other pollutants that take a devastating toll on American lives. Earthjustice has secured first-ever standards limiting emissions of mercury and other air toxics from power plants, and first-ever standards limiting the discharge of toxic wastewaters into our waterways and requiring safe disposal of coal ash are now required in 2014 under court orders secured by Earthjustice. Wall Street analysts project that compliance with these essential safeguards—even in the absence of a carbon cap—will be the economic force that shuts down significant existing coal capacity. In fact, new EPA regulations are already driving announced retirements around the country.