California and coal

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California had 10 coal-fired generating stations in 2005, with 439 MW of capacity, representing 0.7% of the state's total electric generating capacity; California ranks 44th out of the 50 states in terms of coal-fired electric generating capacity.[1] In 2006, California's coal-fired power plants produced 3.9 million tons of CO2, 3,000 tons of sulfur dioxide, and 3,000 tons of nitrogen oxide; coal-fired power plants were responsible for 1.0% of the state's total CO2 emissions.[2] In 2005, California emitted 10.8 tons of CO2 per person, about half the U.S. average.[3] Out of California's 66,105 MW of electric generating capacity, 60.7% comes from natural gas, 20.2% from hydroelectric dams, 6.9% from nuclear, 4.2% from geothermal, and 3.1% from wind.[1]

No coal was mined in California in 2006.[4]

According to the American Lung Association's 2011 annual "State of the Air" report, Los Angeles-Long Beach-Riverside, California rated the worst of 277 metropolitan areas for ozone pollution. The area was also ranked number 4 of 277 for year round particulate matter pollution.[5] The California area of Bakersfield-Delano rated the worst of 277 metropolitan areas for year round particulate matter pollution, Visalia-Porterville rated number two.[6]


With little or no coal reserves, California has no history of coal mining.[7] The coal power industry is also very weak in the state, which is dominated by natural gas-fired and hydroelectric power production. The largest coal-fired power plant in the state has a capacity of 109 MW.

Stockton Cogeneration Facility and Mt. Poso Cogeneration Plant purchase coal from companies engaged in mountaintop removal mining, particularly within Black Mountain, Virginia, although the Mt. Poso plant is currently being converted to burn 100% biomass.[8]

In October 2010, the California Public Utilities Commission signaled that it would end investments will be allowed at Four Corners Steam Plant after 2012 to be in compliance with SB 1368, the Emissions Performance Standard. The law, passed in 2006, prohibited new ownership investment in power plants that fail to meet minimum performance standard for carbon emissions. This law effectively prohibited investment in coal burning plants. Southern California Edison owns 48% of two of the generating units at Four Corners.[9]

Citizen activism

Nov. 15, 2007: Rainforest Action Network day of action against coal finance

On November 15, 2007, Rainforest Action Network activists - acting together with allies from Coal River Mountain Watch, Appalachian Voices, Rising Tide North America, Mountain Justice Summer, Student Environmental Action Coalition, and [h[Energy Justice Network]] - staged dozens of actions against Citibank and Bank of America branches in cities across the county, in protest of those two companies' refusal to stop funding new coal power plant development and coal mountaintop removal mining. In San Francisco, RAN activists attached caution tape - reading "Global Warming Crime Scene" - to dozens of Bank of America and Citibank ATMs, and held "cough-ins" in several branches. Similar ATM closure actions were held in New York City, Davis (CA), Los Angeles, Portland (OR), and St. Petersburg (FL), while protests against the two companies were held in numerous other cities.[10]

February 14, 2009: Activists close accounts with Bank of America, San Francisco, CA

On Valentine's Day, more than 25 activists in San Francisco called on Bank of America to stop funding mountaintop removal mining. The Rising Tide Bay Area protesters served the bank a foreclosure notice for "failing to pay its social and environmental debts" and closed accounts with the bank, pulling out over $10k in San Francisco alone. The action was part of a nationwide campaign against Bank of America organized by Rising Tide North America.[11]

March 14, 2009: Protesters march against coal in Palm Springs, CA

More than fifty people marched through downtown Palm Springs to call attention to the need for a moratorium on the construction of new coal-fired power plants. Protesters carried signs reading, "Quit Coal Now!" The march was part of the Power Past Coal campaign, a 100-day national action that began January 21 runs through April 30.[12]

Activists march against Bank of America on November 30, 2009.

November 30, 2009: 200 rally over global warming at Bank of America: San Francisco, CA

More than 200 activists from Rainforest Action Network and other environmental groups marched to the Bank of America skyscraper in San Francisco to protest the bank's coal financing and interference in climate legislation. Dozens of protesters blockaded the building, some of whom locked themselves inside the building's revolving doors to disrupt business. 22 activists were arrested.[13]


In January and May of 2007, the California Energy Commission banned municipal and investor-owned utilities within the state from signing new contracts with out-of-state coal-fired power plants. This move had an immense impact on the coal power industry, as California is a chronic power importer.[14]

Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006

The Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 requires that the state reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020.[15] The state is currently negotiating legislation that would mandate an 80 percent reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050.[16]

SB 1368 and the "Schwarzenegger clause"

California's SB 1368, enacted in 2006, required state regulators to "establish a greenhouse gases emission performance standard for all baseload generation of local publicly owned electric utilities at a rate of emissions of greenhouse gases that is no higher than the rate of emissions of greenhouse gases for combined-cycle natural gas baseload generation."[17]

In 2007, State Senate President pro Tem Don Perata, the sponsor of the legislation, told the U.S. Congress:[18]

California enacted SB 1368 to send a strong signal to the western energy markets. Our energy must be clean – we won’t buy power from coal plants spewing greenhouse gases by the ton. To be clear, California has not said "no" to coal; rather, we’ve said that we want cleaner coal plants that can provide us energy without producing massive global warming pollution.
To be clear, California has not said "no" to coal; rather, we’ve said that we want cleaner coal plants that can provide us energy without producing massive global warming pollution.

As a result of SB 1368, California regulators limited new coal-fired power plants to an output of 1,100 lbs of CO2 per megawatt hour (MWh). Expressed in metric measures, this is 500 kg CO2/MWh (i.e. 500 kilograms of carbon dioxide per Megawatt hour).[17]

As other jurisdictions moved to adopt the 1,100 lb CO2/MWh standard or the equivalent 500 kg CO2/MWh standard, it became known as the "Schwarzenegger clause."[19]

SB 14 and AB 64: Renewable Portfolio Standards

California's current Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) requires utilities to generate 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2010. On September 11, 2009, the California state legislature passed Senate Bill (SB) 14 and Assembly Bill (AB) 64, raising the state's RPS to at least 33 percent by 2020. A 33 percent RPS would provide 13,000 megawatts of new renewable energy, enough power 6 million homes.[20]

Governor Schwarzenegger has threatened to veto the bills and instead issue an executive order bypassing the legislature. Under these provisions, renewable energy goals can be repealed when a new governor is elected in 16 months. In addition, the executive order would effectively create a loophole for the 2010 mandate of 20 percent renewable requirements. According to a press release by the group Renewable Energy Accountability Project, ConocoPhillips and Occidental Petroleum made donations totaling $50,000 to the Governor's ballot measure committee account on September 10, 2009, just one day before the legislature approved the bills. In addition, major utility companies PG&E, Sempra, and Southern California Edison dropped their opposition to SB 14 and AB 64 at the last minute, suggesting that they may have known of the governor's intention to veto the bills. Since 2003, PG&E, SCE, and Sempra have contributed a total of over $770,000 to Gov. Schwarzenegger's campaign and administration. REAP is calling for an investigation into the influence of the utility industry on the governor's office.[21]

California sets high renewable power goals

On April 12, 2011, Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation that will require California utilities to get one-third of their electrical power from renewable sources, giving the state the most aggressive alternative energy mandate in the entire U.S.

California utilities and other electricity providers have until the end of 2020 to draw 33 percent of their power from solar panels, windmills and other renewable sources.[22]

California adopts nation's first state cap-and-trade program

The California Air Resources Board on October 20, 2011 unanimously adopted the nation's first state-administered cap-and-trade regulations. The market system for the puts a price on heat-trapping pollution by allowing California's energy industry to trade carbon credits. Cap-and-trade is the centerpiece of Bill (AB 32), California's climate change law that mandates a reduction in carbon pollution to 1990 levels by 2020. By 2013 the state's largest carbon emitters will be required to meet the caps or buy credits if they are not able to meet standards.[23]

Energy efficiency measures

California is the country's most energy-efficient state and was one of the first states to enact energy-efficiency standards for new homes, buildings, and household appliances. A study released in October 2008 by the University of California at Berkeley estimated that Californians use about 40 percent less electicity than the average American. The study also found that energy efficiency saved California $56 billion in electricity costs and created 1.5 million jobs over 35 years. The state's plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions over the next twelve years, which also includes emission caps and increased energy efficiency standards, could create 400,000 new jobs and increase household incomes by up to $48 billion annually by 2020.[24]

On November 5, 2008, the city of Berkeley launched a new program called Berkeley FIRST (Financing Initiative for Renewable and Solar Technology.) Under the new program, homeowners can apply for loans to install solar panels and other energy efficiency improvements. The loans are backed by city bonds and will be repayed over 20 years via assessments added to individual property bills. If a property owner moves, the loan transfers to the new owner via the same assessment. The FIRST program will initially fund 40 installations distributed throughout the city, providing up to $37,500 per installation for either residential or commercial properties.[25][26]

Los Angeles Mayor Wants City Off Coal

Coal-fired power plants provide Los Angeles with 44 percent of its energy. In March 2010, the L.A. Department of Water and Power (DWP) Board of Commissioners unanimously approved Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's initiative that will create green jobs and harness the area's ample sunlight. The solar power generation will wean the city off of coal. The City Council approved the measure in March 2010 and will work to eliminate electricity produced by coal by 2020.[27] However, it was reported in December 2010 that DWP may not reach its renewable energy goals set by Mayor Villaraigosa due to a lack of funding. DWP executives warned that they would not be able to sustain that achievement, let alone reach future goals, without guaranteed funding from taxpayers.[28]

In early October 2012 the Los Angeles City Council approved the L.A. Department of Water and Power's plan to invest in clean energy and wean the city off of coal. In 2011 L.A. shipped $500 million out of state to purchase coal produced energy. The vote is estimated that it will create 5,000 jobs in energy efficiency and rooftop solar in the L.A. metro area.[29]

Southern California Edison to Divest from Four Corners

On March 30, 2010, Southern California Edison (SCE) informed Arizona Public Service (APS) of the company's intentions to divest its 48 percent stake of Four Corners Power Plant by 2016. According to APS, Southern California Edison announced it did not plan to sell its shares on the open market. SCE, which supplies power to greater Southern California, does not believe that Four Corners' coal burning is the energy wave of the future. Other issues that may have prompted SCE to divest its interests include proposed legislative initiatives to regulate carbon from power plants, Best Available Retrofit Technology requirements for the plant by fall 2010, and the possible regulation of coal fly ash as a hazardous waste.[30]

Proposed coal plants


Coal lobbying groups

Coal power companies and agencies

Existing coal plants

California had 10 coal-fired generating units at eight locations in 2005, with 439 megawatts (MW) of capacity - representing 0.7% of the state's total electric generating capacity.[1][31][32] None of these units is larger than 50MW.[33][34]Click on the locations shown on the map for plant details. (To see a map of existing coal plants in the U.S., click here.)

Here is a list of coal power plants in California with capacity over 50 MW:[1][35][36]

Plant Name County Owner Year(s) Built Capacity 2007 CO2 Emissions 2006 SO2 Emissions SO2/MW Rank
ACE Cogeneration San Bernardino Constellation Energy 1990 108 MW 991,000 tons N/A N/A
Port of Stockton District Energy Facility San Joaquin FPL Group 1987 54 MW 383,000 tons N/A N/A
Stockton Cogen San Joaquin Air Products Energy Enterprise 1988 60 MW 564,000 tons N/A N/A
Mt. Poso Cogen Kern Red Hawk Energy 1989 62 MW 541,000 tons 41 tons N/A
Argus Cogen San Bernardino Searles Valley Minerals Operations 1978 55 MW ca. 400,000 tons N/A N/A

In total, California's coal-fired electric generating stations produce 1.0% of the state's total CO2 emissions and 2.4% of its total SO2 emissions.[3]

For a map of existing coal plants in the state, see the bottom of this page.

Coal Usage by State Utilities

Los Angeles Department of Water and Power

LADWP derives 44 percent of its power from coal[37]

Out-of-state coal units partly owned by California utilities

In 2005, it was reported that California utilities owned 4,582 MW of capacity in six coal plants located in nearby states. Since that report, the Mohave plant has shut down. The average generation of those coal plants in the 2002-2003 period was 60 TerraWatt hours (TWh).[38]

Plant Name Location Capacity (MW) California Share of Capacity (MW)
Navajo Generating Station Arizona 2,410 510
Reid Gardner Station Nevada 270 183
Mohave Generating Station (retired) Nevada 1,640 1,082
Four Corners Steam Plant New Mexico 1,640 786
San Juan Generating Station New Mexico 1,110 447
Intermountain Power Station Utah 1,640 1574
Total 8,700 4,582

Major coal mines

There are no coal mines in California.[39]

Citizen groups



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Existing Electric Generating Units in the United States, 2005, Energy Information Administration, accessed April 2008.
  2. Estimated Emissions for U.S. Electric Power Industry by State, 1990-2006, Energy Information Administration, 2007.
  3. 3.0 3.1 California Energy Consumption Information, eRedux website, accessed June 2008.
  4. Coal Production and Number of Mines by State and Mine Type, Energy Information Administration, accessed June 2008.
  5. "State of the Air" American Lunch Association, May 9, 2011.
  6. "State of the Air" American Lunch Association, May 9, 2011.
  7. State Coal Profiles, Energy Information Administration, 1994. - cached copy at
  8. "What's My Connection to Mountaintop Removal?", accessed March 2010
  9. "California Gets Closer to Closing the Door on Coal" Noah Long, Natural Resource Defense Council, October 18, 2010.
  10. Thousands Take to the Streets to Protest Citi and Bank of America’s Coal Investments, Rainforest Action Network press release, November 16, 2007. For photos, see RAN's Flickr page.
  11. "Rising Tide Bay Area: 'Bank of America, Where’s Your Heart?'," The Understory, February 15, 2009.
  12. "March for clean energy seeks to curb coal use," Desert Sun, March 15, 2009.
  13. "San Francisco Climate Justice Action at Bank of America; 200 Rally with at least 22 Arrested," The Understory, November 30, 2009.
  14. California Says No to Coal, But World Disagrees, San Francisco Chronicle, May 28, 2007.
  15. "California legislature moves on global warming," Environmental Defense Fund, June 27, 2006.
  16. California's Greenhouse Gas Law: Who Will Pay?, Christian Science Monitor, March 10, 2008.
  17. 17.0 17.1 Implementation of SB 1368 Emission Performance Standard, Gary Collord, California Energy Commission, November 2006
  18. Perata's Testimony Before Congress on Global Warming, March 1, 2007
  19. Ted Nace, "Schwarzenegger's folly?" Gristmill, 10/16/08
  20. "Increase Clean Energy for California," California League of Conservation Voters, September 2009.
  21. "Were $50k in Oil & Coal Contributions to Schwarzenegger Pay-To-Play?," PR Newswire, September 24, 2009.
  22. "California sets high renewable power goals" Adam Weintraub, Associated Press, April 12, 2011.
  23. "California becomes first state to adopt cap-and-trade program" Julie Cart, Los Angeles Times, October 21, 2011.
  24. "Report: California saves money by saving energy," Associated Press, October 20, 2008.
  25. Cisco Devries,"Berkeley rules," Grist, November 3, 2008.
  26. Berkeley FIRST, City of Berkeley Energy and Sustainable Development, accessed November 2008.
  27. "Leaders Needed to Move LA Beyond Coal and Into the Sunlight" Bill Corcoran, Huffington Post, March 23, 2010.
  28. "DWP quietly scales back Villaraigosa's ambitious renewable energy goal" David Zahniser, Los Angeles Times, December 6, 2010.
  29. "LA Chooses Clean Energy Over Coal" Mary Anne Hitt, Huffington Post, October 5, 2012.
  30. "SCE divesting of Four Corners; APS looks to buy share" Kathy Helms, Gallup Independent, March 30, 2010.
  31. Environmental Integrity Project, "Dirty Kilowatts: America’s Most Polluting Power Plants", July 2007.
  32. Dig Deeper, Carbon Monitoring for Action database, accessed June 2008.
  33. Power Plants in Alaska,, accessed June 2008.
  34. Existing Electric Generating Units in the United States, 2005, Energy Information Administration website, accessed May 2008.
  35. Environmental Integrity Project, "Dirty Kilowatts: America’s Most Polluting Power Plants", July 2007.
  36. Dig Deeper, Carbon Monitoring for Action database, accessed June 2008.
  37. Amanda Witherell, "The Dirty Fight Over Clean Power," SF Bay Guardian, 2/2/08
  38. "Clearing California's Coal Shadow from the American West," 2005 (PDF file)
  39. Major U.S. Coal Mines, Energy Information Administration, accessed June 2008.


Existing coal plants in California

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