Just a few years ago, 180 coal plants were on the drawing boards across the country. Now that number may be down by half.
"The rush to build new coal plants is on its last legs," said James Gignac, Midwest director of Sierra Club's "Move Beyond Coal" campaign. "Over 90 of the coal plants have been abandoned or defeated."
Even industry officials acknowledge that applications for new plants have slowed significantly.
"What we have seen in the past year and a half is a decrease in the numbers of proposals for new coal-fired power plants," said Dan Riedinger, a spokesman for Edison Electric Institute, which represents 70 percent of the electric power industry.
Blame the slowdown on the skyrocketing costs of building coal plants and looming federal air-quality regulations, which create uncertainty over future costs for utilities. That makes financing for new plants difficult, at best, to obtain.
Some congressional leaders have called for a ban on building them, at least temporarily.
The industry still wants to build coal plants, and about 40 are under construction, the most in several decades. But plans for building more will depend on developing new technology to remove greenhouse gas emissions, industry leaders say.