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Last coal plants in New England to close; renewables take their place

The last coal producers in New England will shutter their doors permanently under an agreement reached with environmental groups and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Wednesday.

Two plants in New Hampshire, Schiller and Merrimack, will voluntarily cease operations in 2025 and 2028, respectively, said Jim Andrews, president and CEO of Granite Shore Power.

By closing the plants, Granite Shore Power — the company that operates them — resolved litigation brought by the Conservation Law Foundation and the Sierra Club, which alleged they violated the Clean Water Act.

The region’s coal-free status comes as part of a larger pledge by the U.S. to phase out coal power plants through the Powering Past Coal Alliance. The U.S. joins 56 other nations in committing to no new coal plants and the closing of existing operations.

The U.S. has not named a target date for completing the transition, but the Biden administration, through other works, has indicated a plan aimed at no coal by 2035.

New Hampshire will become the 16th coal-free state in the nation, according to a statement by the Sierra Club.

Facilities like Merrimack have fallen short of emissions requirements in the past, exceeding one emissions limit by 70 percent in 2023, according to reporting from New Hampshire Public Radio. Previous failures to meet requirements did not inform the company’s decision, Andrews said.

He has said that new “renewable energy parks” of solar arrays and storage facilities will be developed.

“I’ve been planning for this day for six years,” he said.

Profits in the coal industry have dwindled in the face of cheap natural gas, and projections for job loss are severe. Other plant closures in the New England region have also resulted in pledges to build renewable energy operations.

“The end of coal in New Hampshire, and for the New England region as a whole, is now certain and in sight,” said Tom Irwin, vice president of the Conservation Law Foundation in New Hampshire.

“Today, we celebrate as, at long last, New Hampshire joins our coal-free neighbors across New England,” said Cathy Corkery, senior organizer of the New Hampshire Sierra Club.

“Local communities have long unjustly shouldered the burden of health and safety concerns caused by Merrimack Station and Schiller Stations’ pollution,” she added.

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