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Environment & Energy Report

New York State Power Plants Must Be Coal-Free by 2020

May 9, 2019, 10:03 PM

Power plants in New York must be coal-free by the end of 2020 or close as a result of new greenhouse gas regulations.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation adopted final regulations setting new carbon dioxide emissions limits for all power plants in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced May 9. The regulations essentially require the state’s remaining coal-burning plants to either transition to cleaner, alternative sources of energy or shut down.

The finalization of the regulations comes as the Trump administration continues to promote coal production.

Cuomo first proposed New York going coal-free by 2020 in 2016, and last year directed the department to develop rules and regulations strengthening the state’s carbon dioxide performance standards for major electric generating facilities. The regulations become fully effective on June 8.

“As our federal government continues to support the dying fossil fuel industry, deny climate change, and roll back environmental protections, New York is leading the nation with bold climate action to protect our planet and our communities,” Cuomo said in a statement.

Coal Declining in State

The use of coal has been declining in New York. Since 2000, nearly 3,000 megawatts of generation fueled by coal have retired or suspended operation in the state, according to a May 2 report released by New York Independent System Operator, which runs the state’s power grid.

Coal makes up less than 0.5 percent of energy production in the state, according to the report.

There are two remaining coal plants in the state: the 655-megawatt Somerset Generation Plant in western New York, and the 155-megawatt plant in Cayuga near the Finger Lakes. Both are owned by Riesling Power LLC, an affiliate of Blackstone Group, which enlisted Beowulf Energy to manage the plants.

Beowulf Energy is looking to turn the plants into data centers, one of which would have a large solar component, according to the governor’s office.

The company has presented a “transition plan” to the state that would retire the plants in advance of the timeline outlined in the regulations “while creating a viable new business and jobs in their place, using renewable energy,” Michael Enright, Beowulf Energy’s managing director, said in a statement.

Environmental advocacy groups applauded the finalization of the regulations.

“It’s great news for people who breathe,” said Peter Iwanowicz, executive director of Environmental Advocates of New York. “It means cleaner air for those those who lives by the plants and those that live down wind of them.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Keshia Clukey in Albany, N.Y. at kclukey@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Gregory Henderson at ghenderson@bloombergenvironment.com; Chuck McCutcheon at cmccutcheon@bloombergenvironment.com