New York and coal

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New York had 48 coal-fired generating stations in 2005, with 4,273 MW of capacity, representing 10.0% of the state's total electric generating capacity; New York ranks 28th out of the 50 states in terms of coal energy production.[1] In 2006, New York's coal-fired power plants produced 21.5 million tons of CO2, 100,000 tons of sulfur dioxide, and 29,000 tons of nitrogen oxide; coal-fired power plants were responsible for 10.0% of the state's total CO2 emissions.[2] In 2005, New York emitted 11.1 tons of CO2 per person, slightly more than half the U.S. average.[3]

No coal was mined in New York in 2006.[4]

Citizen activism

Ravena citizens meet to hear results of mercury survey

About 100 local citizens of Ravena, New York, attended a meeting on January 6, 2011, at the Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk High School to hear Michael Bank of the Harvard School of Public Health discuss the results of a study based on testing of mercury levels in 172 people. According to Bank, nearly one person in 10 of those tested had blood levels high enough to warrant a visit to their doctor. The study found that fish consumption was not the source of the mercury. Local citizens have organized Community Advocates for Safe Emissions to push for tougher controls on mercury pollution from the Lafarge cement plant, which uses coal fly ash from power plants and fires its kilns with coal. The plant is New York state's second-largest emitter of mercury.[5]


There is no history of coal mining in New York.[6] The coal power industry is also very weak in New York, which is dominated by nuclear and natural gas power generation.

Legislative issues

Settlement on climate between Xcel Energy and New York state

In August 2008, in a landmark agreement, one of the America’s largest builders of coal-fired power plants was forced to give investors detailed warnings about the risks that climate change poses to its business. The agreement between New York’s attorney general, Andrew Cuomo, and Xcel Energy of Minneapolis, “could open a broad new front in efforts by environmental groups to pressure the energy industry into reducing emissions of the greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming,” said the New York Times.[7]

Although shareholder resolutions are gathering a pace against big oil and coal, “this really takes it another step, by making it a settlement agreement that should have an impact across the industry,” argued Dan Bakal, the director of electric power programs at Ceres, a coalition of investors and environmental groups.

According to the New York Times: “Cuomo subpoenaed Xcel and four other companies last September, seeking to determine whether their efforts to build new coal-fired power plants posed risks not disclosed to investors, like future lawsuits or higher costs to comply with possible regulations restricting carbon emissions.”[7]

“This landmark agreement sets a new industry wide precedent that will force companies to disclose the true financial risks that climate change poses to their investors,” Mr. Cuomo said in a statement.[8] “Coal-fired power plants can significantly contribute to global warming, and investors have the right to know all the associated risks.”

Under the agreement, Xcel had to disclose the financial risks of lawsuits and of federal or state court decisions that would affect its business. The company will also analyze and disclosed the “material financial risks” to itself associated with climate change.[7]

Proposed coal plants



Coal lobbying groups

Coal power companies

Existing coal plants

New York had 48 coal-fired generating units at 17 locations in 2005, with 4,273 MW of capacity - representing 10.0% of the state's total electric generating capacity.[1][9][10]

Here is a list of coal power plants in New York with capacity over 400 MW:[1][11]

Plant Name County Owner Year(s) Built Capacity 2007 CO2 Emissions 2006 SO2 Emissions SO2/MW Rank
C.R. Huntley Erie NRG Energy 1942, 1948, 1953, 1954, 1957, 1958 816 MW 3,659,000 tons 12,299 tons 99
AES Somerset Niagara AES 1984 655 MW 5,395,000 tons 2,573 tons 256
Dunkirk Chautauqua NRG Energy 1950, 1959, 1960 592 MW 3,786,000 tons 10,072 tons 158

These 3 plants represent 48.3% of New York's coal energy generating capacity, 6.0% of the state's total CO2 emissions, and 4.2% of its total SO2 emissions.[3]

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

AES Westover retired in March, 2011

In March 2011 the AES Westover retired its Unit 8 power station in March 2011. Additionally, AES announced it wanted to sell four of its New York coal plants, including Westover. The other plants included AES Cayuga, AES Greenidge and AES Somerset. [12]

Coal Ash Waste and Water Contamination

In August 2010 a study released by the Environmental Integrity Project, the Sierra Club and Earthjustice reported that New York, along with 34 states, had significant groundwater contamination from coal ash that is not currently regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The report, in an attempt to pressure the EPA to regulate coal ash, noted that most states do not monitor drinking water contamination levels near waste disposal sites.[13] The report mentioned New York based AES Cayuga Generation Plant as having groundwater contamination due to coal ash waste.[14]

Major coal mines

There are no major coal mines in New York.[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 York ranks tenth in a list state-by-state spending on international coal imports in 2008, with a total of $63 million spent on international coal .[16] According to the report, Venezuela was the largest international source of coal burned in the northeastern state, with $52.8 million worth of coal purchased from the country.[16] Colombia ($9.7 million) was another source of coal.[16]

However, only 13.3 percent of the $472 million spent on coal for New York's power plants was for international imports in 2008.[16] The remaining amount was spent on coal from West Virginia ($204 million), Wyoming ($164 million), Pennsylvania ($17 million), Montana ($12 million), Kentucky ($10 million), and Ohio ($1 million).[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]

Coal is the source of 13.6 percent of the state's power.[16] The majority of New York's electricity comes from natural gas (31.1 percent), nuclear (30.6 percent), and hydroelectric energy (19 percent).[16] The UCS report ranked states dependence on coal by six categories. Of the six categories, New York 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): NY ranks #20 with $472 million
  • Amount of Coal Used to Fuel Power Plants, by Weight (2008): NY ranks #22 with 8,313,000 tons (total & net imports)
  • Spending on Net Coal Imports per Capita (2008): NY ranks #34 with $24
  • Spending on Net Coal Imports as a Share of Gross State Product (GSP) (2008): NY ranks #33 with 0.04%
  • Net Coal Imports as a Share of Total State Electricity Use (2008): NY ranks #31 with 13% net imports/electricity use

Citizen groups



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Existing Electric Generating Units in the United States, 2005, Energy Information Administration, accessed April 2008. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "EIA" defined multiple times with different content
  2. Estimated Emissions for U.S. Electric Power Industry by State, 1990-2006, Energy Information Administration, 2007.
  3. 3.0 3.1 New York 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. Brian Nearing, "Town sees mercury spike,", January 7, 2011
  6. State Coal Profiles, Energy Information Administration, 1994 - cached copy at
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Nicholas Confessore, Xcel to Disclose Global Warming Risks,New York Times, August 27, 2008
  8. "Cuomo Reaches Landmark Agreement With Major Energy Company, Excel Energy, To Require Disclosure of Financial Risks of Climate Change to Investors", Media Release, August 27, 2008.
  9. Environmental Integrity Project, "Dirty Kilowatts: America’s Most Polluting Power Plants", July 2007.
  10. Dig Deeper, Carbon Monitoring for Action database, accessed June 2008.
  11. Dig Deeper, Carbon Monitoring for Action database, accessed June 2008.
  12. "AES to sell four New York coal plants" Reuters, March, 4, 2011.
  13. "Study of coal ash sites finds extensive water contamination" Renee Schoff, Miami Herald, August 26, 2010.
  14. "Enviro groups: ND, SD coal ash polluting water" Associated Press, August 24, 2010.
  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 Jeff Deyette and Barbara Freese, "Burning coal, burning cash: Ranking the states that import the most coal", Union of Concerned Scientists, May 18, 2010.


Existing coal plants in New York

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