New Hampshire and coal

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New Hampshire had 5 coal-fired generating stations in 2005, with 609 MW of capacity, representing 13.4% of the state's total electric generating capacity; New Hampshire ranks 41st out of the 50 states in terms of coal-fired electric generating capacity.[1] In 2006, New Hampshire's coal-fired power plants produced 4.0 million tons of CO2, 39,000 tons of sulfur dioxide, and 6,000 tons of nitrogen oxide; coal-fired power plants were responsible for 19.3% of the state's total CO2 emissions.[2] In 2005, New Hampshire emitted 15.6 tons of CO2 per person, about 20% less than the U.S. average.[3]

According to the American Coal Foundation, New Hampshire ranks 42nd in coal use in the US, with about one million tons of coal generating 21% of the state's electricity.[4]

No coal was mined in New Hampshire in 2006.[5]

Merrimack Station scrubber controversy

In August 2008, the future of the Merrimack Station, the state's largest coal plant, became the subject of controversy when plant owner PSCNH revealed that the projected cost of new mercury-control scrubbers had increased from $250 million to $457 million.[6] The scrubbers would reduce mercury emissions by 80 percent.[6]

An ad hoc group of 24 businesses, led by Stonyfield Farms CEO Gary Hirshberg and including inventor Dean Kammen and Timberland President Jeffrey Schwartz, petitioned the state to reconsider the scrubbers.[6]

Energy analyst Symbiotic Strategies LLC made an assessment of the future costs to comply with increased greenhouse gas, mercury and other requirements. It came up with an additional cost of between $864 million and $2.5 billion. The impact on ratepayers would be three to six times higher than PSNH's estimated increase of one-third of a cent per kWh for the scrubber project, according to the analysis.[6]

On March 13, 2009, the New Hampshire Senate Energy, Environment and Economic Development Committee held a hearing on a bill that would order a review of the scrubbers.[6] About 150 trade union members attended the hearing wearing T-Shirts that said “Don’t scrub my job.”[7] Environmentalists supported the study, as did Hirschberg's businesses coalition. Several speakers saying Merrimack Station should be closed. Representatitives of the Concord and Nashua chambers of commerce testified against the bill, as did labor groups and officials from Bow, Hooksett and Manchester.[7][8]


With insignificant coal reserves, New Hampshire has no history of coal mining.[9] The coal power industry is also very weak in New Hampshire, which is dominated by nuclear and natural gas-fired power generation. No new coal-fired generating stations have been built in New Hampshire since 1968.[1]

Legislative issues

On Feb. 23, 2011, the state’s overwhelmingly Republican House of Representatives voted to support HB 519, a bill that would repeal participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which has cut greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution and made improvements in energy efficiency. The bill passed by a nearly party-line vote of 246 to 104 (13 Republicans voted against, two Democrats for). The bill has to pass through the finance committee before a final house vote and consideration by the senate. Gov. John Lynch (D-NH), who has touted the success of RGGI in making the air healthier while increasing economic prosperity, is expected to veto the bill, but Republicans hold veto-proof majorities in both chambers of the New Hampshire legislature. The bill was aided by robocalls from Koch Industries’s Americans for Prosperity group, which flooded the state with calls in support the bill. Rep. Sandra Keans (D-Rochester), told the Nashua Telegraph that AFP’s calls were “sleazy” and deliberately false: “I have never seen such a cowardly perpetration pulled on the citizens of New Hampshire."[10]

With the collapse of federal cap-and-trade legislation, a total of 32 states became active participants or observing members in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative in the Northeast, the Midwestern Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord, or the Western Climate Initiative. Some commentators have suggested that Koch family foundations and ExxonMobil have opposed these initiatives, and that the American Legislative Exchange Council has advanced model legislation to that end. [11]

In July 2011, New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch vetoed the effort, stating "I am vetoing this legislation because it will cost our citizens jobs, both now and into the future, hinder our economic recovery, and damage our state's long-term economic competitiveness." [12]

Proposed coal plants

There are currently no proposals - either active or cancelled - to build coal-fired power plants in Vermont.

Coal lobbying groups

Coal power companies

Existing coal plants

New Hampshire had 5 coal-fired generating stations in 2005, with 609 MW of capacity - representing 13.4% of the state's total electric generating capacity. Here is a list of New Hampshire's coal power plants:[1][13][14]

Plant Name County Owner Year(s) Built Capacity 2007 CO2 Emissions 2006 SO2 Emissions SO2/MW Rank
Merrimack Merrimack Northeast Utilities 1960, 1968 459 MW 3,371,000 tons 32,726 tons 26
Schiller Rockingham Northeast Utilities 1952, 1955, 1957 150 MW 593,000 tons 6,527 tons N/A

These 2 plants represent 19.3% of New Hampshire's total CO2 emissions, and 15.2% 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 New Hampshire.[15]

Spending on Coal Imports

In May 2010, the Union of Concerned Scientists released a report titled Burning Coal, Burning Cash: Ranking the States that Import the Most Coal.[16] The report found that New Hampshire ranks eighth in a list state-by-state spending on international coal imports in 2008.[16] According to the report, Venezuela was the largest source of coal burned in New Hampshire, with $59.3 million worth of coal purchased from the country.[16] Colombia was another source of international imports for the state's coal-fired power plants, with $19.7 million spent on Colombian coal.[16] Domestic sources of coal included Pennsylvania ($32 million), West Virginia ($14 million), and Virginia ($8 million).[16] New Hampshire power plants spent a total of $133 million on coal in 2008; 59.4% was spent on internationally-sourced coal.[16]

In 2008, sixteen U.S. states imported 25.4 million tons of coal from outside the country at the cost of $1.8 billion, an amount the equivalent of 1,700 barges over the course of a year, or over four per day.[16] These imports amounted to three percent of the coal burned in the U.S. for electricity.[16] The report noted that while coal imports into the U.S. have tripled over a ten year period ending in 2008, the country exports more coal than it imports.[16]

Alabama (with $489 million) ranks number one for state-by-state spending on international coal imports, followed by Florida (with $307 million).[16] Another New England state, Massachusetts, takes the number three position, having spent $206 million on Colombian coal.[16] New Hampshire is followed by Connecticut, where power plants spent $79 million on coal imported from outside the U.S.[16]

Public Service Company of New Hampshire purchased all of the coal burned in New Hampshire in 2008.[17] The company spent $79 million on coal for the Merrimack Station.[17]

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, "New Hampshire produces twice as much electricity as retail customers buy. That suggests in-state coal plants may export some of their power."[17] Coal is the source of 15.1 percent of the state's power. The majority of New Hampshire's electricity comes from nuclear energy (40.9 percent) and natural gas (30.9 percent).[16] The UCS report ranked states dependence on coal by six categories. Of the six categories, New Hampshire was in the top ten for only this one category ('Spending on International Coal Imports').[16] The state otherwise ranked as follows:

  • Expenditures on Coal as Fuel for Power Plants (2008): NH ranks #30 with $133 million
  • Amount of Coal Used to Fuel Power Plants, by Weight (2008): NH ranks #33 with 1,449,000 tons (total & net imports)
  • Spending on Net Coal Imports per Capita (2008): NH ranks #20 with $100
  • Spending on Net Coal Imports as a Share of Gross State Product (GSP) (2008): NH ranks #19 with 0.22%
  • Net Coal Imports as a Share of Total State Electricity Use (2008): NH ranks #29 with 17% net imports/electricity use

Coal Transportation

Coal Train Derailment, November 2009

Late in the morning of November 17, 2009 in Nashua, New Hampshire, seven cars of an 87-car train derailed.[18] Three of the cars toppled over, spilling about 300 tons of coal, while four cars remained standing upright.[18] The train was traveling on Pan Am tracks to deliver coal to the Merrimack Station in Bow (approximately thirty miles north of Nashua).[18] According to the Nashua Telegraph, "The trains carrying coal to Merrimack Station make up a significant portion of the state’s freight rail traffic. It takes more than 100 trains similar to the one that derailed Tuesday to provide the power plant with its coal each year, although not all of those run through Nashua."[18]

Citizen groups

In March 2009, the Sierra Club filed an appeal of the temporary permit issued by the NH Department of Environmental Services for the scrubber installation at the Merrimack Station. A preliminary hearing was originally scheduled for May 11, 2009.

The Air Resources Council (ARC) is an 11 member volunteer administrative body created by statute charged with the responsibility of hearing permit appeals issued by NHDES-Air Resources Division. The 11 members are appointed by the governor to represent different interests, both public and industry. But the Air Resources Council, the tribunal respnsible for hearing state air appeals, has been wrought with controversy over confilts of interest.

When the docket was first filed, NHSC asked for full disclosure of any conflicts of interest from the members of the Council but, instead of divulging potential conflicts, 5 members recused themselves, Duvall, Collins, Smagula, Murray and Garish Thomas at the regular meeting of the Council in April.

After responding to requests from the press, two more members took themselves off the case, Hale and Bielagus. But at the May meeting of the Council, Bielagus put himself back on the Council saying, as a principal of Grubb and Ellis/ Coldstream Real Estate Advisors in Bedford, that the firm’s relationship with PSNH is not “recent”.

In October, 2009, NHSC filed a renewal to the Motion to Disqualify Donald, including this time a state required financial disclosure form revealing his relationship with Seabrook Station, formally owned by PSNH. NHSC also filed a Motion to Defer Ruling, a request to resolve Donald’s standing before any other decision is made.

PSNH responded to the renewed Motion to Disqualify in two filings. The first stated that ethical disclosure form does not mean his relationship with Seabrook Station includes PSNH since Seabrook Station is owned by another utility. PSNH did not confirm or deny that Donald had worked for PSNH or Northeast Utilities, the parent company. The second filing states that in fact Raymond Donald did work at Seabrook Station from 1986 until 1999, obviously including years when PSNH owned the nuclear plant, and now enjoys a pension in his retirement.

Donald had numerous opportunities to disclose his relationship with PSNH but failed to do so. His silence has tainted the process and made a mockery of the Air Resources Council as a fair appeal body. The Council, with Raymond Donald acting as the Presiding Officer, has made at least 9 decisions regarding the case. He should step down from the ARC and the rulings should not be upheld.

The ARC is scheduled to review a number of motions on January 11, 2010, including the Disqualifacation of Presiding Officer Raymond Donald and the requests for information about the turbine replacement in 2008 that was done without public notice or an environmental permit.



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 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 New Hampshire Energy Consumption Information, eRedux website, accessed June 2008.
  4. "What is your state's role in coal?: New Hampshire", "American Coal Foundation" website, accessed June 10, 2009.
  5. Coal Production and Number of Mines by State and Mine Type, Energy Information Administration, accessed June 2008.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 Stacy Morford, "Survival Strategy for an Aging Coal Plant," Climate Progress, 3/5/09
  7. 7.0 7.1 Gary Rayno, "Power plant study plan fuels scrubber debate," Union Leader, 3/14/09
  8. "Stopping the Coal Rush", Sierra Club, accessed May 2009. (This is a Sierra Club list of new coal plant proposals.)
  9. State Coal Profiles, Energy Information Administration, 1994 - cached copy at
  10. "New Hampshire: “Neither man nor cow is responsible for global warming” Climate Progress, Feb. 28, 2011.
  11. David Anderson (2011-03-16). Koch-funded group mounts cut-and-paste attack on regional climate initiatives. Grist. Retrieved on 2011-03-29.
  12. Jason McLure, NH Gov. Lynch Vetoes Plan to Opt Out of Greenhouse Initiative, Reuters, July 6, 2011.
  13. Environmental Integrity Project, "Dirty Kilowatts: America’s Most Polluting Power Plants", July 2007.
  14. Dig Deeper, Carbon Monitoring for Action database, accessed June 2008.
  15. Major U.S. Coal Mines, Energy Information Administration, accessed June 2008.
  16. 16.00 16.01 16.02 16.03 16.04 16.05 16.06 16.07 16.08 16.09 16.10 16.11 16.12 16.13 Jeff Deyette and Barbara Freese, "Burning coal, burning cash: Ranking the states that import the most coal", Union of Concerned Scientists, May 18, 2010.
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 "New Hampshire's dependence on imported coal", Union of Concerned Scientists website, accessed August 26, 2010.
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 18.3 Karen Lovett, "Derailed train snarls traffic in the city", "Nashua Telegraph", November 18, 2009.


Existing coal plants in New Hampshire

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