Energy Snapshot

See Which States Use Coal the Most as New Climate Rule Is Finalized

As the Clean Power Plan aims to tamp down emissions from the nation's power plants, coal-dependent states face big decisions.

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States such as Wyoming, home to the coal-fired Jim Bridger Power Plant above, face key decisions about how to fuel their electricity while meeting new targets for reducing pollution.


It's been called "devastating" and "excessive," driving at least one opponent to call government officials "a bunch of punks."

The Clean Power Plan, finalized August 3 by the Environmental Protection Agency, does not mandate the shutdown of any particular coal plant. That hasn't stopped it from drawing ire and lawsuits from coal-heavy states such as Kentucky and West Virginia. 

The graphic below explains the opposition: Overwhelmingly dependent on coal, these states will likely need a fundamental shift in their electricity mix in order to help the U.S. meet its climate goals. The new rule aims to cut carbon dioxide emissions from power plants—the nation's largest source of carbon pollution—32 percent from 2005 levels over the next 15 years. That's up from the 30 percent initially proposed in 2014.

Clean Power Plan Emissions Goals by State
The plan aims to reduce nationwide carbon emissions from power generation 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. The EPA set a different reduction goal for each state.
Total carbon emissions in 2012, in pounds per megawatt hour
Percentage of electricty generated from coal
2030 carbon emissions goal
Sort by
Total carbon emissions
Percent to cut by 2030
Percent of power from coal
Vermont has no plants affected by this rule. Hawaii and Alaska declared exempt.
Electricity from coal figures reflect only generation by electric utilities and independent power producers in 2014, not commercial and industrial sources.
CHIQUI ESTEBAN, NG STAFF
SOURCES: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; U.S. Energy Information Administration

Generating power from coal emits almost twice the carbon of natural gas-fired power, so ramping it down (or installing pricy pollution controls) is a key lever to pull, especially for seven states that get 70 percent of their power from coal: Kentucky, West Virginia, Wyoming, Missouri, Ohio, Indiana, and Utah.

Those states saw their target emissions reductions increase last week by 10 percent or more from the plan originally proposed in June 2014. Other coal-reliant states such as Montana, North Dakota, and Kansas also face tougher goals under the final rule. Goals for other states eased a bit, while Hawaii and Alaska were exempted entirely due to a lack of data.

The story is part of a special series that explores energy issues. For more, visit The Great Energy Challenge.

On Twitter: Follow Christina Nunez and get more environment and energy coverage at NatGeoEnergy.

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