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AEP to retire more than 1,600 MW of coal capacity

American Electric Power Co. Inc. announced Nov. 5 that it will shut down more than 1,600 MW of coal capacity at two power plants in Texas by the end of 2028 to meet federal environmental regulations.

AEP said it plans to retire the 721-MW Pirkey coal plant in Hallsville, Texas, in 2023 and stop burning coal at the 1,053-MW Welsh coal plant in Pittsburg, Texas, in 2028. AEP utility Southwestern Electric Power Co., or SWEPCO, owns an 86% interest in the Pirkey coal plant, representing about 580 MW of capacity. SWEPCO also owns and operates the Welsh coal plant.

AEP said these moves are part of compliance plans that it will file this month to meet the requirements of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Coal Combustion Residuals, or CCR, rule.

"Dry bottom ash handling systems or new lined ash ponds that meet the requirements of the EPA's CCR and Effluent Limitation Guidelines (ELG) rules will be built and operational in 2023 at four other power plant sites," the company said in a news release. "Existing ash ponds at these sites will be closed, and the ash will be moved to regulated landfills."

AEP said it plans to make the necessary investments to continue operating Appalachian Power Co.'s 2,930-MW John E. Amos and 1,330-MW Mountaineer coal plants in West Virginia, as well as the 1,560-MW Mitchell coal plant in West Virginia owned by AEP subsidiaries Kentucky Power Co. and Wheeling Power Co. The company also expects the 528-MW Flint Creek coal plant in Arkansas to meet environmental regulations. SWEPCO owns a 50% interest in the Flint Creek coal plant, with the remaining interest owned by Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corp.

In addition, AEP expects to make the necessary upgrades to the ash pond system at its 1,310-MW Rockport Unit 1 in Indiana to allow the coal unit to continue operating until its planned retirement in 2028. The Rockport unit, operated by AEP subsidiary Indiana Michigan Power Co., is among the largest coal units in the nation.

AEP also announced that it "will not renew the lease" for the 1,310-MW Rockport Unit 2 when it expires in 2022.

"As we look at the future of our power plant fleet, we've balanced the remaining life and economic viability of each of our coal-fueled generating units with other options for delivering power to our customers. We continue to add lower cost, cleaner resources, like renewables and natural gas, as we diversify our generating fleet to benefit our customers and the environment," AEP Chairman, President and CEO Nicholas Akins said in the news release. "We have retired or sold nearly 13,500 MW of coal-fueled generation in the last decade."

The Pirkey coal plant received nearly 2.6 million tons of lignite coal from Sabine Mining Co.'s South Hallsville No. 1 Mine in 2019, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence data. Meanwhile, the Welsh coal plant received more than 3 million tons of coal from Peabody Energy Corp.'s North Antelope Rochelle Mine in 2019.