Vistra Will Close Another Illinois Coal Plant

A Vistra Energy subsidiary on Sept. 16 said it will close the nearly 60-year-old E.D. Edwards coal-fired plant in Bartonville, Illinois, by year-end 2022 under a settlement between the company and environmental groups the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Respiratory Health Association. The groups made a joint announcement Monday of the agreement.

The environmental groups had sued in 2013 in an attempt to force the plant to adhere to emissions regulations. Vistra, in its second-quarter 2019 U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing, said a bench trial in the case had been scheduled for the end of September. “We dispute the allegations and will defend the case vigorously,” the company said in the SEC filing earlier this year, prior to the settlement.

Vistra’s Illinois power-generation unit—Illinois Power Resources Generating (IPRG), an affiliate of Vistra-owned Luminant—in a statement Monday said: “The proposed settlement resolves a long-running lawsuit while providing three years of certainty for the more than 70 employees working at the Edwards plant and, importantly, a transition period for the community to plan for the plant closure. [The company] and Edwards look forward to continuing to provide reliable power for Illinois for the next three years while supporting the communities where our employees live and work.”

The environmental groups and IPRG in a statement said the proposed settlement is subject to review and comment by the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, as well as “review, approval and entry” by the Illinois district court.

Four Other Plant Closures Announced in August

Vistra, based in Irving, Texas, has now announced closures of five of its coal-fired plants in Illinois in just the past two months. The 585-MW Edwards plant, which came online in 1960, has two operating units. Unit 1 at Edwards was retired in December 2015. Units 2 and 3 came online in 1968 and 1972, respectively. Ameren owned the plant until it was acquired by Dynegy in 2013.

The Edwards plant, which is just southeast of Peoria, sells its power into the Midcontinent Independent System Operator and PJM Interconnection markets. The Edwards plant, along with Vistra’s Duck Creek, Coffeen, and Newton plants in Illinois, have 2,540 MW electrically tied into PJM through “pseudo-tie” arrangements, according to Vistra.

Vistra acquired eight downstate Illinois power plants when it merged with Houston, Texas-based Dynegy last year. The plants employed at least 900 workers; the recently announced closures will leave Vistra with a workforce of about 330 at its three remaining downstate plants.

Vistra in August said that, pending regulatory approval, it plans to close the 915-MW Coffeen, 425-MW Duck Creek, 434-MW Havana, and 294-MW Hennepin power plants in southern Illinois, citing poor economics and regulatory issues. The Illinois Pollution Control Board in March of this year moved to impose stricter pollution caps after a recommendation from new Gov. J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat who took office in January. The previous governor, Republican Bruce Rauner, had supported less-stringent emissions limits.

Vistra in the settlement announced Monday agreed to provide $8.6 million for “workforce development” and environmental and public health projects in the Peoria areas.

Ryan Hidden, speaking for the Sierra Club’s “Beyond Coal” campaign, in a news release Monday said, “For families in Peoria and central Illinois this proposed settlement is an important milestone in improving air quality. If approved, this settlement will include millions of dollars for the local community to spur job growth in the clean energy industry, provide educational and job training opportunities, reduce energy bills and improve public health. Residents in the Peoria area have been working for years to voice concerns and hopes to push for a cleaner and more just energy future.”

Darrell Proctor is a POWER associate editor (@DarrellProctor1, @POWERmagazine).