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New York proposes tougher CO2 limits on power plants as 2020 coal phaseout looms

A new draft proposal from New York state seeks to impose more stringent pollution controls on existing fossil fuel-fired power plants as Gov. Andrew Cuomo moves to completely phase out coal as a generation fuel within the state by 2020.

The New York Department of Environmental Conservation published the draft pollution protection rule May 16. The more stringent pollution restrictions seek to help New York achieve its goal of a 40% cut in greenhouse emissions from 1990 levels by 2030 by shutting down the few remaining coal power plants in the state — as promised by Cuomo in January 2016 — and by restricting emissions from natural gas- and oil-fired power plants.

Beginning in 2021, the rule would limit emissions from any nonmodified existing fossil fuel-fired electric generating source to a maximum of 1,800 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour gross electrical output or 180 pounds of CO2 per million British thermal units of input.

The proposal also would require coal-fired power plants by 2021 to switch to a cleaner fuel, permanently shut down or install carbon capture and storage, or CCS, technology to reduce a unit's CO2 rate to those allowed for new generation resources or facilities that increase their capacity by at least 25 MW. However, the Department of Environmental Conservation said in its rulemaking notice that CCS retrofits most likely would be cost prohibitive for existing coal-fired units.

According to grid operator New York ISO, coal plants generated 1,493 GWh, or 1% of New York's energy load in 2016. In 2017, that amount was even less, at 567 GWh.

S&P Global Market Intelligence data show that three coal power plants remain operating in New York. Those include the nearly 692-MW Somerset ST plant in Niagara and the approximately 302-MW Cayuga ST plant in Tompkins, both of which are majority-owned by Blackstone Group LP alongside small stakes claimed by Bicent Power LLC. In addition, Stonepeak Partners LP and Ironclad Energy Ventures LLC jointly own the roughly 120-MW Kodak Park (Eastman Business Park Facility) plant in Monroe.

The Sierra Club, the Environmental Defense Fund and Democratic state Sens. Liz Krueger and Brian Kavanagh were among those praising the draft pollution rule.

"We have enormous opportunities to change course in New York, sharply reduce carbon emissions, and invest in renewable energy sources," Kavanagh said. "Bottom line: coal is too expensive and too dirty for New York. Eliminating coal is a meaningful, long-overdue step forward."