How EPA's ACE rule could boost coal power and carbon pollution

“Most munis and co-ops don’t face state price or resource mix regulation, they have captive customers, many don’t participate in centralized wholesale energy markets, and they don’t have deep credit so they can’t walk away from the plant mortgage,” Silverstein said. “So they may keep borderline coal plants going until the pain is too great.”

Whether or not utilities rush back to coal, Goffman said the entire debate over the EPA ACE rule distracts from the larger imperative of decarbonizing the power sector.

“We’ve got a climate change problem to solve and this proposal, it’s not just rearranging deck chairs on a sinking ship, it’s rearranging the cushions on the deck chairs,” he said. “It’s the complete diversion of the federal government’s resources from solving the big problem, and that’s as much an indictment of this proposal as the terms of the proposal itself."