New Coal-Fired Power Plants on the Horizon

Coal, for decades the reviled stepchild of the U.S. energy family, is about to become the prodigal son. Stoked by easy availability, the rising costs of other fuels, and a growing desire to reduce dependence on foreign oil and gas, coal is roaring back: Plans are in the works to build some 94 new coal-fired power plants in 36 states. Because most plants are still in the private planning phase, not yet open for public comment, the impending coal rush has thus far come in under the radar of most environmental groups and state officials. The burning of coal produces more airborne mercury and greenhouse gases than any other single source, and those levels could increase dramatically when the new plants come online. Says Dan Becker, director of the Sierra Club’s energy program, “I think most Americans would be shocked that utilities are dragging the 19th century into the 21st century.”