Irving, Texas-based Vistra Energy and its subsidiaries have announced plans to close four coal-fueled power plants in Illinois.
The plants will retire in order to meet the requirements of the recently approved revisions to the Multi-Pollutant Standard (MPS) rule, which was imposed by the Illinois Pollution Control Board. The company will close the Coffeen Power Plant in Coffeen, Duck Creek Power Plant in Canton, Havana Power Plant in Havana and Hennepin Power Plant in Hennepin.
The revised MPS rule regulates emissions at eight power plants operated by Vistra subsidiaries. The rule also calls for a reduction in annual mass caps for SO2 and NOx.
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“Even though today’s retirement announcements were inevitable due to the changing regulatory environment and unfavorable economic conditions in the MISO market, they are nonetheless difficult to make,” comments Curt Morgan, Vistra’s president and CEO. “By far, the hardest decisions we make in our business are those that significantly impact our people. As always, we will do right by those who are impacted by this announcement. Our employees take pride in the work they do, and we appreciate their decades of service providing reliable and affordable power to Illinois, particularly in years like this one with periods of extreme cold and heat.”
As part of the closure process, the company is filing required notices with MISO, PJM and FERC. If it is determined that the units are not needed for reliability, Vistra expects to cease operations at all four sites by the end of the year.
Approximately 300 jobs will be eliminated across the four plants. Vistra is providing outplacement services and working with state workforce agencies to assist the employees impacted by the closures.
Notably, the company says it continues to strongly support legislation that would provide a pathway to reinvest and repurpose its coal sites into solar and battery energy storage facilities. Vistra has a demonstrated history of developing these new technologies in Texas and California and, through the Coal to Solar and Energy Storage Act of 2019, could do the same in Illinois. This legislation would allow the company to reuse substantial transmission infrastructure and its existing footprint of available land at its coal-fueled power plants to develop renewable energy facilities, mitigating employment and property tax impacts to plant communities and helping Illinois meet its clean energy goals.
Vistra is hopeful that the Illinois General Assembly will take up the Coal to Solar and Energy Storage Act during its fall veto session.
“As a Canton resident, I am very concerned about the dedicated workers and what Vistra will do to clean up their locations,” says Brenda Dilts, head of Concerned Area Citizens for Environmental Issues and a longtime member of the Sierra Club’s Heart of Illinois Group. “Everyone has to look at the fact that Vistra is closing some of their cleanest-operating coal plants. Duck Creek, southeast of Canton, has scrubbers, as do Havana and Coffeen. We know the cleaner plants cost more to operate and make less profit, and Vistra is all about profit. Illinois needs to move to solar and wind energy so we can breathe healthier air and have new jobs for our area. In July, I met with our mayor to talk about what can be done to promote new jobs and opportunities for reclaiming areas of our county. I hope the Duck Creek plant land is reclaimed, as their huge coal ash pits are on the bluff above the Illinois River.”