Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign Marks 179th Coal Plant Retirement
In response to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) enforcement of air quality violations, White Pine Electric Power announced last week its commitment to stop burning coal at its small 60-megawatt power plant in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The plant's two online units will convert immediately to natural gas. The facility has until 2023 to install best-in-class air pollution control equipment for burning gas or will be forced to retire operations altogether.
“We applaud EPA for pushing companies like White Pine Electric to clean up their air pollution," said Nachy Kanfer, a senior official covering Michigan at the Sierra Club. "Strong enforcement of air quality violations is paving the way to timely retirements like these. Upper Peninsula residents can look forward to cleaner air. At the same time, natural gas is still a dangerous fossil fuel, and simply switching from coal to gas is not the solution to climate change. We urge decision-makers to consider impacts on the community as it transitions.”
The power plant was originally built to power a copper mine, which has now closed. A Canadian medical marijuana company has plans to grow cannabis in the abandoned mine shafts, apparently an environment suitable for such cultivation.
Burning coal represents more than one-third of carbon emissions in the United States. Coal burning also leads to as many as 13,000 premature deaths every year and more than $100 billion in annual health related costs. The Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaignaims at mobilizing local, grassroots community action for retiring old and outdated coal-fired plants and preventing new coal plants from being built.
As one of its principal goals, the campaign hopes to retire one-third of the nation's more than 500 coal burning plants by 2020. The While Pines plant in Michigan represents number 179. Beyond Coal also seeks to promote the development of clean sources of energy to replace retired coal plants, such as wind, solar and geothermal, as well as energy efficiency.
Image courtesy of Sierra Club