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Buy Bonds, Kill Coal

Closing old power plants is expensive. State legislators are looking for ways to help pay the bill.
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Illustration: Aaron Fernandez for Bloomberg Businessweek

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As President Donald Trump prepares to pay failing coal plants to stay open, several states are hatching plans to gently put them to sleep. One solution gaining steam among lawmakers, environmentalists, and policy experts can be found in an unlikely place: the bond market.

For utilities, getting out of the coal business can be costly. They have to pay to dismantle generators, and they don’t want to miss out on future revenue by scrapping still-productive assets early. Plus, coal-plant workers will need to be retrained for other jobs. To pay for all that, states could allow utilities to issue special bonds at low rates. While the plan has yet to be implemented, Colorado, New Mexico, and Missouri are among the states where legislation has been debated.