EEI aerial

Joppa's EEI plant from the air.  In an announcement by Vistra, the parent company, EEI will not be one of the Illinois plants closing.

file photo

• Plant retirements will lower emissions and company will focus on the remaining business while transitioning to a sustainable business in Illinois including newer, alternative technologies

Massac County has avoided a financial blow as Vistra Engergy, the parent company to Dynegy/Electric Energy Inc. in Joppa, announced Aug. 21 four power plants, which will be shut down and EEI will not one of them.

Earlier this year Vistra had indicated EEI was one of the plants, which could be in danger of shutting down. EEI began operating in 1953 and currently employs approximately 120 people.

Vistra Energy and its subsidiaries said in a press release the four power plants will retire in order to meet the requirements of the recently approved revisions to the Multi-Pollutant Standard (MPS) rule imposed by the Illinois Pollution Control Board (IPCB).

The company will close the following four coal-fueled power plants in Illinois — Coffeen Power Plant, Duck Creek Power Plant in Canton, Havana Power Plant and Hennepin Power Plant.

Without this rule change, the company’s entire downstate fleet was at risk of near imminent retirement.

These plant retirements are required by the revised MPS rule, which regulates emissions at eight power plants operated by Vistra subsidiaries. The revised rule, which also calls for a reduction in annual mass caps for SO2 and NOx, requires that the company permanently shut down 2000 MW of capacity from the eight MPS group of plants by the end of the year, pending approval by grid operators, Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) and PJM Interconnection, and approval of the termination of certain tariffs by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

In addition, the revised rule requires adjustments of these annual caps as additional power plant units are shut down or transferred. As a result, the retirement of the four plants will further reduce annual allowable SO2 and NOx emissions in the MPS group of plants, driving total allowable emissions down by 57 and 61 percent, respectively, from that allowed under the former MPS rule. While not explicitly required by the MPS, CO2 emissions will also be significantly reduced by approximately 40 percent relative to 2018 levels.

“Even though today’s retirement announcements were inevitable due to the changing regulatory environment and unfavorable economic conditions in the MISO market, they are nonetheless difficult to make,” said Curt Morgan, Vistra’s president and chief executive officer. “By far, the hardest decisions we make in our business are those that significantly impact our people. As always, we will do right by those who are impacted by this announcement. Our employees take pride in the work they do, and we appreciate their decades of service providing reliable and affordable power to Illinois, particularly in years like this one with periods of extreme cold and heat.”  

The decision to retire these four plants resulted from a plant-by-plant analysis that evaluated several factors in making retirement decisions, including ensuring compliance with the new emissions caps set forth in the revised MPS rule, plant economics, federal energy regulations and MISO market rules. In addition, consideration was given to prioritize retirement of higher emitting plants as suggested by the IEPA and IPCB along with the other factors listed above which resulted in a balanced mix of higher and lower emitting plant retirements.

As part of the closure process, the company is filing the required notices with MISO, PJM and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. If it is determined that the units are not needed for reliability, Vistra expects to cease operations at all four sites by the end of the year. The company will take the necessary steps to responsibly decommission the facilities in accordance with all federal and state regulations.

Approximately 300 jobs will be eliminated across the four plant sites. Vistra is providing outplacement services and working with state workforce agencies to assist the employees impacted by the closures.

Future of plant sites and Vistra’s Illinois business plant closures can have detrimental impacts to the communities in which they are located, but Vistra aims to mitigate this impact by growing its Illinois business with newer technologies. To that end, the company continues to strongly support legislation that would provide a pathway to reinvest and repurpose its existing coal-fueled power plant sites into solar and battery energy storage facilities.

Vistra has a demonstrated history of developing these new technologies in Texas and California and, through the Coal to Solar and Energy Storage Act of 2019, could do the same in Illinois. This legislation would allow the company to reuse substantial transmission infrastructure and its existing footprint of available land at its coal-fueled power plants to develop renewable energy facilities, mitigating employment and property tax impacts to plant communities and helping Illinois meet its clean energy goals.

Vistra is hopeful that the Illinois General Assembly will take up the Coal to Solar and Energy Storage Act during its fall Veto Session.

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