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Proposed settlement reached to close 585-MW Edwards coal-fired power plant in Illinois

Highlights

Subject to review by US DOJ, EPA, District Court

Vistra in August said it will close about 2GW of Ill. coal-fired generation

New York — Environmental groups and an affiliate of Vistra Energy subsidiary Luminant said Monday they are seeking approval of a proposed Clean Air Act lawsuit settlement that would facilitate retirement of the 585-MW Edwards coal-fired power plant in Illinois by 2022.

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The Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council and Respiratory Health Association filed a 2013 Clean Air Act citizen suit in the US District Court for the Central District of Illinois alleging violations of opacity and particulate matter limits.

The environmental groups and Illinois Power Resources Generating said in a statement the proposed settlement is subject to review and comment by the US Department of Justice and Environmental Protection Agency as well as "review, approval and entry" by the Illinois district court.

The government groups have a 45-day window to review the settlement and potentially suggest changes before it goes to the Illinois district court judge for a final decision, Brian Urbaszewski, director of environmental health programs at the Respiratory Health Association, said in a phone call.

"The proposed settlement announced today is an important milestone in improving air quality for families in Peoria and Central Illinois and allows an important period of time to support transition needs of the community and workers," the environmental groups said in a joint statement.

Vistra noted in its second quarter 2019 US Securities and Exchange Commission filing that 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.

However, in the Monday statement, IPRG 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 said that it along with the Edwards plant look forward to providing "reliable power for Illinois for the next three years."

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

ADDITIONAL COAL CLOSURES

Vistra said in August that by the end of this year, pending regulatory approval, the company plans to close its 915-MW Coffeen Power Plant, 425-MW Duck Creek Power Plant, 434-MW Havana Power Plant and the 294-MW Hennepin Power Plant due to a combination of regulatory and economic forces.

Those coal plant retirements could result in upward wholesale power price pressure, though it will depend on the mixture of generation resources and imports from neighboring regions that backfill the capacity.

The roughly 2 GW of coal-fired generators ran at a 60%-70% capacity factor in 2018 -- assuming little change to the operating characteristics, the retirements leave MISO/PJM Interconnection absent approximately 1.4 GW of generation, Andrew Larson, power market analyst with S&P Global Platts Analytics, said at the time.

IPRG, NRDC and Sierra Club did not return requests for comment.

-- Jared Anderson, jared.anderson@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Richard Rubin, newsdesk@spglobal.com