Pirkey Power Plant

AEP Southwestern Electric Power Co.’s H.W. Pirkey Power Plant in Hallsville is shown.

AEP Southwestern Electric Power Co. will retire the H.W. Pirkey Power Plant in Hallsville in 2023 and also cease coal operations at a plant in Pittsburg, the utility announced Thursday.

The company’s compliance plans for two recently revised environmental regulations include retiring the Hallsville plant and ceasing coal operations at the Welsh Power Plant in Pittsburg in 2028, SWEPCO said in a statement.

SWEPCO spokeswoman Carey Sullivan said there are 105 employees at Pirkey, which began service in 1985, and 122 at Welsh.

The utility will file its compliance plans this month for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Coal Combustion Residuals rule, the statement said. The rule applies to the handling and storage of coal ash at each facility. SWEPCO owns 580 megawatts of generating capacity at Pirkey and 1,053 at Welsh.

“Our Pirkey and Welsh employees have provided decades of safe and reliable service to SWEPCO customers, which will continue until the transition is complete,” SWEPCO president and Chief Operating Officer Malcolm Smoak said in a statement. “We are committed to working with our employees, local leaders and our communities in East Texas to help them manage these transitions.”

SWEPCO will discuss transition options with affected employees, which include severance, educational and retraining resources, and other potential job opportunities at SWEPCO and AEP.

“In making these difficult decisions, we have worked to balance the remaining life and economic viability of each of our coal-fueled generating units with other options for delivering power, including renewable energy and natural gas, in a resource mix that benefits our customers and the environment,” Smoak said.

The analysis includes what is necessary to comply with the recently revised EPA rules, each plant’s remaining operating life and potential future compliance costs, the company said.

SWEPCO will continue to evaluate options for the Welsh Plant.

SWEPCO’s Flint Creek Power Plant in Gentry, Arkansas, will continue operations with installation of a dry bottom ash handling system and other facilities that meet the Coal Combustion Residuals and Effluent Limitation Guidelines requirements in 2023. The existing ash pond at the site will be closed, and the ash will be sold or moved to the plant’s onsite landfill.

The John W. Turk Jr. Power Plant in Fulton, Arkansas, meets the Coal Combustion Residuals rule and Effluent Limitation Guidelines, the company said.

This past month, SWEPCO announced it is seeking a 15% rate hike that would take effect in January 2022.

SWEPCO said in a statement that the company submitted a request to the Public Utility Commission of Texas for a net annual increase of $90.2 million in its non-fuel base rates. For a Texas residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt-hours per month, the change would result in an overall bill increase of almost $16 per month.

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Digital editor

I'm a native Hoosier who has been in East Texas since 2003. I've been a photographer, page designer, web editor and a digital editor in Longview and Marshall.