Energy Report

Regional Utilities Don’t Plan to Return to Coal

Date: June 14, 2017

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By Elizabeth E. Payne

On March 28, President Donald Trump signed an executive order instructing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to unravel the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, which would have limited the amount of carbon dioxide emissions allowed from coal-fired power plants.

Despite the president’s promise to bring back coal, CEOs from electric utilities across the region have stated that they have no intention of returning to coal.

“Our statutory duty is to produce electricity at the lowest feasible rate,” Bill Johnson, CEO of the Tennessee Valley Authority, the nation’s largest public utility, told the Associated Press in mid-April. “And when we decided to close the coal plants, that was the math we were doing. We weren’t trying to comply with the Clean Power Plan or anything else. What’s the cheapest way to serve the customer? It turned out to be retiring those coal plants.”

Similarly, Duke Energy will move steadily away from coal. The company’s CEO Lynn Good told the Charlotte Business Journal, “Our strategy will continue to be to drive carbon out of our business.”

Appalachian Power’s new president, Chris Beam, also said that his company didn’t have plans to expand its coal use either, despite local pressure from coal company owner and West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice.

“The governor asked me, ‘I’d like you to burn more coal,’” Beam said, according to the Charleston Gazette-Mail. “Well, we don’t have any more coal plants. We’re not going to build any more coal plants. That’s not going to happen.”

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