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Vistra names Illinois coal plants to be shut for emissions rule compliance

Vistra Energy Corp. on Aug. 21 identified four of coal-fired power plants in Illinois with a combined capacity of 2,000 MW that it will close by the end of this year to meet recently approved amendments to the state's Multi-Pollutant Standard, or MPS, rule.

The Illinois Pollution Control Board in June directed Vistra to retire 2,000 MW of coal-fired generating capacity by the end of this year to comply with the amended rule, which regulates and sets new caps for sulfur dioxide, or SO2, and nitrogen oxide, or NOx, emissions for coal-fired power plants in central and southern Illinois. In its order, the board said the amendments to the MPS rule are "economically reasonable and technically feasible."

At the time, Vistra said it would determine which of its Illinois coal plants, which collectively total about 7,000 MW, it would retire.

The plants slated for retirements, all interconnected to the Midcontinent ISO market, are the 915-MW Coffeen plant in Montgomery County, 434-MW Havana 6 plant in Mason County, 425-MW Duck Creek plant in Fulton County, and 294-MW Hennepin plant in Putnam County. According to a Vistra news release, the plants are between 41 and 66 years old.

According to S&P Global Market Intelligence data, the Coffeen plant's sole source of coal this year has been Peabody Energy Corp.'s North Antelope Rochelle Mine in Campbell County, Wyo. For Havana 6, the largest source of coal has been Blackjewel LLC's Belle Ayr Mine, also in Campbell County, Wyo., along with North Antelope Rochelle and Arch Coal Inc.'s Black Thunder Mine, in Campbell County, Wyo., as well. The Black Thunder Mine is the largest source of coal for the Duck Creek plant, while Cloud Peak Energy Inc.'s Antelope Coal Mine in Converse County, Wyo., has been another source. Belle Ayr, North Antelope Rochelle and Black Thunder are all sources of coal for the Hennepin plant.

The closures will further reduce annual allowable SO2 and NOx emissions from the remaining plants, driving total allowable SO2 emissions down by 57% and NOx emissions down by 61% from that allowed under the former MPS rule. The company said that carbon dioxide emissions will also be reduced by approximately 40% compared to 2018 levels, although such reductions are not required by the MPS.

Following the plant closures, Vistra will have approximately 5,000 MW of coal-fired capacity in the Illinois, including an 80% stake in the 1,002-MW Joppa Steam station in Massac County, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence data.

Additionally, Vistra said it will provide outplacement services and is in talks with state workforce agencies to help the approximately 300 employees that will be impacted by the plant retirements.

Vistra plugged legislation in Illinois to help redevelop coal plant sites into locations for solar and battery energy storage facilities. The Coal to Solar and Energy Storage Act, H.B. 2713, was introduced in February and passed the House Public Utilities Committee, but has since been sitting with the House Rules Committee.

The plant retirements are pending Midcontinent ISO and PJM Interconnection reviews for potential reliability impacts and termination of certain tariffs by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.