SWEPCO to end coal operations at two plants, upgrade a third

Southwestern Electric Power Co.’s (SWEPCO) compliance plans for two recently revised environmental regulations include retiring the H.W. Pirkey Power Plant in Hallsville, Texas, in 2023 and ceasing coal operations at the Welsh Power Plant at Pittsburg, Texas, in 2028. 

SWEPCO, an American Electric Power company (Nasdaq: AEP), will file its compliance plans this month for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Coal Combustion Residuals (CCR) rule. The rule applies to the handling and storage of coal ash at each facility. SWEPCO owns 580 megawatts (MW) of generating capacity at Pirkey and 1,053 MW at Welsh.

Flint Creek Power Plant in Gentry, Ark., will continue operations with installation of a dry bottom ash handling system and other facilities that meet the CCR and Effluent Limitation Guidelines (ELG) requirements in 2023. The existing ash pond at this site will be closed and the ash will be sold for beneficial reuse or moved to the plant’s regulated onsite landfill. SWEPCO owns 258 MW of the plant capacity.

The John W. Turk Jr. Power Plant (477 MW) in Fulton, Ark., currently meets CCR and ELG standards.

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

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 the level of investment necessary to comply with the recently revised EPA rules, each plant’s remaining operating life, and potential future compliance costs.

SWEPCO will continue to evaluate options for the Welsh Plant, which will cease coal operations in 2028.