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Texas utility to close two major coal-fired power plants

Texas utility to close two major coal-fired power plants
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A Texas utility plans to shut down two large coal-fired power plants in the state.

Luminant announced Friday that it would shutter its two-unit Sandow Power Plant near Austin and two-unit Big Brown Power Plant between Dallas and Houston in early 2018.

The two power plants have a generating capacity of 2,300 megawatts. The company had previously announced its plan to take a third coal-fired facility offline, meaning 2.1 million Texas homes will no longer be powered by coal, the Dallas Morning News reports.

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In a statement, the company said the plants are “economically challenged,” because of low wholesale power prices, the expansion of renewable electricity and the low cost of natural gas.

“This announcement is a difficult one to make,” said Curt Morgan, the president and CEO of Luminant parent company Vistra Energy.

“It is never easy to announce an action that has a significant impact on our people. Though the long-term economic viability of these plants has been in question for some time, our year-long analysis indicates this announcement is now necessary," he said.

The announcement comes days after Trump administration started the process of repealing the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, a climate rule for power plants. Officials, from President Trump to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittScientific integrity, or more hot air? OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden proposes billions for electric vehicles, building retrofitting| EPA chief to replace Trump appointees on science advisory panels | Kerry to travel to UAE, India to discuss climate change EPA chief to replace Trump appointees on science advisory panels MORE, have vowed to end the “war on coal,” a moniker used by opponents to describe Obama’s aggressive climate change agenda.

But market factors — including cheap natural gas and the growth of renewables — have taken their toll on the American coal industry regardless of regulations.

The Sierra Club noted Friday that the two closures in Texas mean more than half the country’s coal-fired power plants have closed, or have committed to closing, since 2010.