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The era of power plants using coal to generate electricity is ending in New Jersey.
The last two remaining coal-fired plants in the Garden State — both in South Jersey — are preparing to cease operation within months, Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration announced last week.
Murphy called the move a “very good step in the right direction” as the state continues to shift away from fossil fuels and toward renewable, or greener, energy sources. The Democratic governor has set a goal of using only carbon-free — or “clean” — energy sources by 2050.
“A world without coal is a cleaner, safer world,” Murphy said Thursday during a television interview with News 12. “And when you’re the most densely populated state in America, as we are, that is doubly true.”
The Atlantic City Electric Company filed a petition to buy out existing power-purchase agreements and end coal generation at its Logan Plant in Swedesboro and the Chambers plant in Carneys Point on or around May 31. The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities approved the petition Wednesday.
Exelon Corp., the company that owns the facilities, said the move could save customers as much as $30 million.
“The modified agreements are great news for the residents of New Jersey because at long last, we are ending coal generation in our state,” BPU President Joseph Fiordaliso said.
Asked what will happen to workers at the two plants, Murphy said the state wants to “make sure we can repot them as quickly and as responsibly as possible.”
The U.S. and other countries in general have been moving away from coal the last few decades. The use of coal to generate electricity in America dropped in half between 2005 and 2019, according to he U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Experts say coal is a particularly expensive and “dirty” fossil fuel, producing much more air pollution than other sources.
Anjuli Ramos, director of the New Jersey chapter of environmental group the Sierra Club, told NJ Advance Media on Thursday that New Jersey phasing out coal is a “significant move.”
But Ramos said the “natural next step” has to be replacing coal generation with renewable energy, and it’s unclear if that will happen.
“We don’t know,” she said.
Murphy has routinely promised to improve New Jersey’s environment to battle climate change. In early 2020, he unveiled an energy master plan to wean the state “off its century-old addiction to fossil fuels.” He has also returned New Jersey to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, increased the number of wind farms in the state, and signed laws to boost solar energy and electric vehicles in the state.
Murphy said Thursday there is now a “mix of energy sources” in New Jersey — including natural gas, nuclear, wind, solar. But that mix “constantly shifts.”
“The mix today and the mix 10 years from now will be dramatically different,” the governor said.