Idaho and coal

From SourceWatch
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Coalswarm badge.gif

This article is part of the Coal Issues portal on SourceWatch, a project of Global Energy Monitor and the Center for Media and Democracy. See here for help on adding material to CoalSwarm.


In 2005 Idaho had 6 coal-fired generating stations, with 19 MW of capacity - representing 0.5% of the state's total electric generating capacity, and making Idaho the third-smallest coal energy producing state in the U.S. (after Vermont and Rhode Island, which both have no coal-fired power plants).[1] In 2006, Idaho's coal-fired power plants produced 277,000 tons of CO2, 1,544 tons of sulfur dioxide, and 627 tons of nitrogen oxide; coal-fired power plants were responsible for 1.9% of the state's total CO2 emissions.[2] In 2005, Idaho emitted 9.92 tons of CO2 per person, less than half the U.S. average, and the lowest level in the U.S.[3] This relatively low level of emissions is largely due to the fact that 72.9% of Idaho's electric generating capacity comes from hydroelectricity.[1]

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

Citizen activism

In February of 2009 the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality signed off on a permit for Southeast Idaho Energy Company to build the Power County Advanced Energy Center, a $1 billion facility that will produce fertilizer through the coal gasification process near the town of American Falls.[5]

In March 2009 Shoshone-Bannock Tribes teamed up with the Sierra Club and the Idaho Conservation League to oppose the permit, stating they have concerns about potential public health problems on the Fort Hall Reservation which is downwind from the proposed plant.[6] As of September 2009, the facility is still set for development.[7]

Coal's history in Idaho

Idaho has no history of coal mining - the state's recoverable coal reserves total only about 2 million tons.[8] The coal power industry has also hitherto played no role in Idaho; the state's only coal power plants are used to fuel two Amalgamated Sugar plants in the southwest of the state.[1] In recent years, power companies have proposed building five new coal-fired power plants in Idaho; now four of those proposals have been cancelled or abandoned.

Studies on Coal in Idaho

A study released in July 2010 by the Civil Society Institute argued that it was technically and economically viable to retire all coal and nuclear based power in seven Western states, including Idaho.

The region covered in the study was said to have enough renewable sources of energy and, combined with energy conservation measures, the transition away from coal and nuclear could take place within 30 years time. In this scenario, according to the Civil Society Institute study, the entire Northwest could retire 11,000 megawatts of coal-fired power and add at least 12,000 megawatts of onshore wind power..[9]

Legislative issues

Moratorium on new coal plants

On April 7, 2006, Governor Kempthorne of Idaho signed House Bill 791, which established a two-year moratorium on new coal plants in the state.[10]

Proposed coal plants

On November 30, 2009 the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality issued a permit to Southeast Idaho Energy that will require their proposed Power County Advanced Energy Center plant to emit 58% less CO2 than a comparable plant of its stature now emits. The Sierra Club and the Idaho Conservation League were in negotiations with Southeast Idaho Energy for several months prior to the announcement. It was reported that the deal gives the plant an easier road to secure funding for its future construction.

This was the first departure by the Sierra Club, who has previously stated that they will oppose all new coal-fired power plants. The plant will utilize the controversial technology known as carbon sequestration to reduce the plant's CO2 footprint.[11] In April 2011 the $1.5 billion coal-gasification plant that is intended to produce nitrogen-based fertilizers was put on hold due to a lack of money, a company official stated. Southeast Idaho Energy, a subsidiary of Refined Energy Holdings, had already obtained an air quality permit from the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality and a special use permit from Power County to build the plant.[12]

However, in May, 2011 it was announced that Southeast Idaho Energy closed its office in American Falls, site of its proposed plant that is to be designed to make fertilizer through a process called coal gasification[13]



Coal lobbying groups

Coal power companies

Existing coal plants

Idaho had 6 coal-fired generating stations in 2005, with 19 MW of capacity - representing 0.5% of the state's total electric generating capacity. Here is a list of all existing coal power plants in Idaho:[1][14][15]

Plant Name County Owner Year(s) Built Capacity 2007 CO2 Emissions 2006 SO2 Emissions SO2/MW Rank
Amalgamated Sugar Twin Valls Twin Falls Snake River Sugar Company 1948, 1994 10.2 MW 150,000 tons 536 tons N/A
Amalgamated Sugar Nampa Canyon Snake River Sugar Company 1948, 1950, 1968 8.7 MW 127,000 tons 1,008 tons N/A

These 2 plants represent 2.0% of Idaho's total CO2 emissions, and 3.9% of the state's total SO2 emissions.[3]

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

Major coal mines

There are no coal mines in Idaho.[16]

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 Idaho 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. Mark Mendiola,"Idaho Department of Environmental Quality Gives Green Light in Coal Gasification Plant", Idaho Business Review, February 16, 2009.
  6. [ " Air Quality Permitting: Southeast Idaho Energy (SIE) Power County Advanced Energy Center (PCAEC)"] Southeast Idaho Energy Website, accessed May 7, 2010.
  7. Tribes and environmentalists fight Idaho coal plant,, accessed September, 2009.
  8. Recoverable Coal Reserves at Producing Mines, Estimated Recoverable Reserves, and Demonstrated Reserve Base by Mining Method, 2006, Energy Information Administration, 2007.
  9. "Study says Northwest can quit coal power and save money" Dustin Bleizeffer,, July 29, 2010.
  10. "Victory! Moratorium Bill Signed by Governor," Sun Valley Online, 4/10/06
  11. Idaho sets stringent clean coal' rules for proposed plant, Rocky Barker, Miami Herald, November 30, 2009.
  12. "Plans to build E. Idaho coal-gasification plant put on hold due to lack of money, company says" Idaho State Journal, April 2, 2011.
  13. " Southeast Idaho Energy closes office at American Falls, Idaho State Journal, May 27, 2011.
  14. Environmental Integrity Project, "Dirty Kilowatts: America’s Most Polluting Power Plants", July 2007.
  15. Dig Deeper, Carbon Monitoring for Action database, accessed June 2008.
  16. Major U.S. Coal Mines, Energy Information Administration, accessed June 2008.

Related SourceWatch articles

Alabama and coalAlaska and coalArizona and coalArkansas and coalCalifornia and coalColorado and coalConnecticut and coalDelaware and coalFlorida and coalGeorgia and coalHawaii and coalIdaho and coalIllinois and coalIndiana and coalIowa and coalKansas and coalKentucky and coalLouisiana and coalMaine and coalMaryland and coalMassachusetts and coalMichigan and coalMinnesota and coalMississippi and coalMissouri and coalMontana and coalNebraska and coalNevada and coalNew Hampshire and coalNew Jersey and coalNew Mexico and coalNew York and coalNorth Carolina and coalNorth Dakota and coalOhio and coalOklahoma and coalOregon and coalPennsylvania and coalRhode Island and coalSouth Carolina and coalSouth Dakota and coalTennessee and coalTexas and coalUtah and coalVermont and coalVirginia and coalWashington State and coalWest Virginia and coalWisconsin and coalWyoming and coalDelaware and coalMaryland and coalNew Hampshire and coalNew Jersey and coalMassachusetts and coalConnecticut and coalWest Virginia and coalVermont and coalRhode Island and coalMap of USA with state names.png
About this image

External links