Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The Impact of Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Program on Proposed New Coal-Fired Power Plants at the Turn of the 21st Century
by Sandler, Kenneth G., Ph.D., George Mason University, 2020, 273; 28090479
Abstract (Summary)

After President George W. Bush’s National Energy Plan of 2001 encouraged the development of hundreds of new coal-fired power plants across the U.S., the Sierra Club created a program, Beyond Coal, to oppose these proposed new plants and prevent a surge in greenhouse gas emissions. My dissertation evaluates Beyond Coal’s level of success in meeting these goals, and the strategy it used to pursue them.

I took a multimethod approach to this research, employing both quantitative, cross-case analysis and qualitative case studies. I gathered extensive data on the 235 proposed new plants challenged, to identify the characteristics of these cases and gain insight into why some succeeded while others failed. I supplemented this analysis with a set of four case studies from two states with different levels of openness to coal-fired power plants, Kentucky and Illinois.

Ultimately, 86.4% of these proposed new coal-fired power plants failed to get built. I found that Beyond Coal’s most effective strategy consisted of using environmental permitting processes to force delays in power plant approvals. As these delays increased – the average project having to survive 52.8 months before succeeding or failing – plant developers were forced to confront rising economic and political/regulatory challenges that doomed a large majority of them. The greenhouse gas emissions avoided as a result of these project cancellations were significant. I explore a range of different factors influencing the fate of these plants and the extent to which Beyond Coal can claim credit for the ultimate outcome.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Aguirre, A. Alonso
Commitee: Hart, David M., deMonsabert, Sharon, Kreis, Donald M.
School: George Mason University
Department: Environmental Science and Public Policy
School Location: United States -- Virginia
Source: DAI-A 82/3(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Energy, Environmental Studies, Political science, Environmental science
Keywords: Climate change, Electricity, Energy, Environmental, Fossil fuel, Social movement, Coal-fired power plants
Publication Number: 28090479
ISBN: 9798672193366
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