MILAM COUNTY, Texas (KWKT/KXAN) — Even as President Donald Trump eases restrictions for the coal industry, Luminant announced Friday it will close two coal-fueled power plants in Central Texas, resulting in the loss of more than 600 jobs.
Luminant’s announcement said the two plants were economically challenged in the competitive market in Texas, citing sustained low wholesale power prices, an oversupplied renewable generation market and low natural gas prices along with other factors.
With the loss of the two-unit Sandow Plant, Milam County will take another hit after losing its biggest employer a few years ago when the Alcoa aluminum plant at Rockdale closed. It is estimated that between the Sandow plant and the mining operation, 450 employees will be affected. The company says the employees will be offered severance benefits and outplacement assistance.
Alcoa has already curtailed its smelter operation next to Sandow. Also closing will be the Three Oaks Mine, in nearby Bastrop County, which supplied fuel for the Sandow plant.
Also to be closed is the two-unit Big Brown Power Plant in Freestone County, taking a total of 2,300 megawatts of power offline in early 2018. With regard to the Big Brown plant, Luminant noted that operational changes to keep it viable under changing market conditions had already been underway, but despite the changes it did not appear economically feasible to keep running it. Luminant estimated that about 200 employees would be affected by the Big Brown close.
The Turlington Mine, which supplies Big Brown, had already been set to close down by the end of the year.
Unless ERCOT rules that the power generation capacity is absolutely necessary for the state power grid’s health, the plants will close early in 2018.
Earlier in the week, Luminant and Alcoa entered into a contract termination agreement, agreeing to an early settlement of a long-standing power and mining agreement.
In a statement, the Sierra Club said, “Closure of these two additional plants will result in significant air and water quality benefits for Texas communities in the Dallas Fort-Worth, Austin, Pflugerville, Round Rock and Taylor regions, as well as communities across the central United States.”