Sunday, February 25, 2018

Luminant to close Mount Pleasant plant, affecting 200 jobs

By Ken Hedler
Oct. 11, 2017 at 11:04 a.m.
Updated Oct. 11, 2017 at 11:39 a.m.

Luminant reported Friday that it plans to retire its coal-fired Monticello Power Plant in Titus County in January, leading to the loss of an estimated 200 jobs.

“For more than 40 years, Monticello employees have generated reliable power for Texans, and we honor and recognize their service,” Curt Morgan, president and CEO of Luminant’s parent company Vistra Energy in Irving, said in a statement. “But the market’s unprecedented low power price environment has profoundly impacted its operating revenues and no longer supports continued investment.”

The decision follows several moves by Luminant over the past year to close power plants and mines as coal could not compete with cheaper and cleaning-burning natural gas for generating electricity at power plants, resulting in hundreds of job losses. Luminant, the largest power producer in Texas, laid off 132 workers as it shuttered its Oak Hill lignite mine near Tatum by the end of 2016.

After a round of layoffs announced in October 2016, Luminant told the Texas Workforce Commission in November it also laid off 43 workers from its Martin Lake plant near Tatum.

Luminant expects the bulk of the employees to stay on their jobs until the plant closes, spokeswoman Meranda Cohn said. Some employees will stay on longer for the decommissioning process of the plant.

The closings and layoffs take place amid plans by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to relax federal regulations to reduce pollution from burning coal.

“It is definitely a continuing situation of the sustained low power prices,” Cohn said. “We have to take a look at what is going on in our market. Over the past few years, wholesale power prices have continued to decline.”

Luminant, which was acquired by Vistra a year ago, will offer severance benefits and outplacement help to Monticello employees. The company also will help employees who will consider job openings elsewhere with Luminant.

“This was a difficult decision made after a year of careful analysis,” Morgan said. “We are sensitive to the consequences of our decision on employees and members of the local community, with whom we have worked closely for decades. Luminant will be coordinating with civic leadership to prepare for the impacts of the transition.”

As part of its decision to retire the Monticello plant, Luminant filed a notice with the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which will trigger a reliability review. If ERCOT determines the units are not needed for reliability after the 60-day review, Luminant expects to stop plant operations Jan. 4.

Luminant also will take steps to decommission the plant to comply with state and federal regulations.

Luminant also will continue ongoing reclamation work at the plant’s mines, which ceased active operation in spring 2016.

Vistra also estimated it will record one-time charges of approximately $20 million to $25 million in the third quarter of 2017 because of the plant closing, including employee severance costs and non-cash changes for materials inventory and the acceleration of Luminant’s mining reclamation obligations.

Vistra says it is premier Texas-based energy company, and has more than 3,000 employees. Its portfolio consists primarily of Luminant and TXU Energy.

Luminant generates and sells electricity and related products that total about 18,000 megawatts in Texas. Of that total, 8,000 megawatts comes from coal. 7,500 from natural gas and 2,300 from nuclear power.

Luminant also is a larger purchaser of renewable energy, including wind and solar power.

TXU sells retail electricity and value-added services to about 1.7 million residential and business customers in Texas.



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