The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) initial projections on coal power vastly underestimated how much coal-fired power would be shuttered by its mercury regulation, according to federal data.
Actual capacity retirements from coal-fired power plants were more than four times greater than EPA initially projected. Newly-released Energy Department data shows 20 gigawatts of coal power have retired, compared to the 4.7 gigawatts projected by EPA.
“Coal-fired generating capacity in the United States dropped from 299 gigawatts (GW) at the end of 2014 to 276 GW as of April 2016,” according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA).
EIA attributed coal’s demise “to a mix of competitive pressure from low natural gas prices and the costs and technical challenges of environmental compliance measures.”
EPA’s mercury regulation, called MATS, is one of the most contentious and costly rules ever imposed under the Clean Air Act. The coal industry claimed MATS would force power plants to close down, but EPA said only a fraction would close and these would be outweighed by the public health benefits.