Two N.J. coal-fired plants shuttered as Trump pulled out of Paris accord

Two of New Jersey’s coal-fired plants were shuttered Thursday, even as President Trump outlined plans to save fossil fuel jobs by withdrawing from the Paris climate accord.

Public Service Enterprise Group of Newark planned to close its Mercer and Hudson generation stations as reported earlier this week by the Inquirer’s Andrew Maykuth. The state has two other operating coal-fired plants remaining.

The two PSEG plants are emblematic of both Obama and Trump administration policies.

PSEG Power completed more than $1 billion in upgrades to comply with tougher federal standards aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions under the Obama administration.  As part of the plan to meet Paris accord carbon reductions, Obama launched his signature Clean Power Plan in 2015, which further took aim at coal-fired plants.

But Trump promised to end the “war on coal” during his campaign, joining with the coal industry in lashing out at the tougher standards. Withdrawing from the Paris accord was part of that campaign promise.

But neither PSEG, Trump, nor Obama foresaw the continued tumble in energy prices brought on by shale gas — and how it would cut carbon emissions, at least in some areas of the country.

“We made a bet on high gas prices,” Ralph Izzo, PSEG’s chief executive, told Maykuth. “We got that wrong.”

In short, hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, of Marcellus Shale gas did in the New Jersey coal plants, much as it has done in Pennsylvania.

Environmentalists cheered the closures.

“Even though Trump pulled out of Paris … we still had two coal plants in New Jersey close,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “The country will still move forward with clean energy and New Jersey will next year,” he said, noting that the state “will see the most consequences from climate change including sea level rise and flooding.”

Another thing environmentalists might cheer: PSEG is exploring the possibility with New Jersey officials of installing solar panels at the sites, which already have transmission lines connected to the grid.

This article was corrected to note that New Jersey has two remaining coal-fired plants.