Pacific Swell

Southern California environment news and trends

Los Angeles to end use of coal by 2025, says Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa

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The city of Los Angeles, once mostly dependent on coal-fired power plants, will end its use of coal energy entirely within 12 years, according to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

“In a couple of weeks I will be signing agreements to get completely out of coal by 2025,” Villaraigosa said at an event at UCLA.

The mayor was speaking at an event sponsored by UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability entitled, "What a mayor can do to green a city."

The mayor’s announcement was greated with a “woah” by moderator Glen MacDonald and applause from a crowd of environmentalists, students and academics. “We’ll be out of Navajo, 2015. Intermountain looks like 2025,” Villaraigosa said. “It will be a big deal.”

About 39 percent of L.A.'s power comes from the two out-of-state coal plants now. The Navajo Generating Station in Arizona represents around a third of LA’s coal-fired power; the Intermountain Power Plant in Utah produces about two-thirds of that power, which along with natural gas remains cheaper than less-polluting renewable energy like geothermal, solar and wind power.

During his second inaugural address in 2009, Villariagosa announced plans for L.A. to eliminate coal from its energy portfolio by the year 2020. Subsequent shakeups at the top of the Department of Water and Power, a bruising political battle over a “carbon tax” and related energy rate increases slowed progress toward that goal.

In recent years, DWP General Manager Ron Nichols has said that the city is moving away from coal, but is slowed by the terms of its contracts with the Navajo Generating Station and the Intermountain Power Plant. 

So signing new legal agreements to lock in an end to coal by 2025 would mark a significant milestone in the effort to make L.A. coal-free. 

The utility's 2012 Integrated Resources Plan, a strategic road map, recommended divestiture from the Navajo plant by 2015, four years ahead of the original schedule. The preface to the IRP, approved by Nichols and other top officials at the DWP, also suggests an end to reliance on coal at the Utah plant:

LADWP’s other coal source – the Intermountain Power Project—is undergoing discussions which could enable a future conversion to lower emitting resources. Because LADWP is one of thirty-six purchasers of IPP energy, any future plans must be agreed to by all project participants.  

No formal announcements have come from the mayor's office or the DWP, and calls to both offices -- and to officials at Navajo and IPP -- have not yet yielded more information. 

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