DICKERSON, Md. (AP) — The new owner of two Maryland power plants says the plants will likely stop burning coal.

The Washington Post reports NRG Energy is seeking federal permission to deactivate the coal units at facilities in Dickerson in Montgomery County and at Chalk Point in Prince George’s County in 2017. The generators will continue to burn oil and natural gas.

Princeton, N.J.-based NRG acquired the previous owner of the plants last year. The coal units at the two plants have a capacity of 1.2 gigawatts in total, enough to power about 1 million residences.

NRG spokesman Dave Gaier says last week’s deactivation request is a response to increasingly stringent state regulations that would require costly investments to comply. The coal-fired boilers, which are about 50 years old, would need new scrubbers and other equipment.

“Those would simply not be economical to install at those particular coal units,” Gaier said.

NRG is working to settle a lawsuit brought by the state alleging violations of wastewater rules at both plants and the state recently settled another case over the disposal of the ash the facilities produce. In 2000, a ruptured pipeline at Chalk Point leaked an estimated 111,000 gallons of oil into the Patuxent River.

Environmentalists, who have long complained of excessive pollution at the plants, are pleased with the news.

“It’s a forward-thinking move,” said Diana Dascalu-Joffe, a lawyer at the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.

The termination of the coal units at Chalk Point would be “a step in the right direction,” according to Fred Tutman, who leads Patuxent Riverkeeper, but that the oil and gas units might remain a danger to the watershed.

The decision to stop burning coal at the plants is not yet final and Gaier declined to discuss detailed plans. But Tutman and Dascalu-Joffe believe closures are inevitable and other coal-fired facilities in Maryland will be forced into retirement.

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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