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As long expected, Vistra to close some Illinois coal-fired power plants

Wednesday, Aug 21, 2019

* April 13, 2018

Three days after completing the roughly $2 billion purchase of rival Dynegy Inc., power producer Vistra Energy Corp. got another reminder of the struggles facing the Illinois coal plants it added to its fleet.

The region’s grid operator, the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO), announced clearing prices for its annual capacity auction yesterday afternoon. And the results will only fuel speculation that the company will close one or more of its Illinois plants. […]

Vistra is in the midst of an operational review of power plants to identify potential efficiencies. But, [Vistra’s CEO Curt Morgan] noted, the Illinois fleet is “challenged.”

“We’re likely going to have to retire some facilities there,” he said, adding that such a decision could come as early as this year.

* April 16, 2018

Coal is becoming a less competitive energy source with cheaper options like natural gas and other renewables on the market, Vistra Energy CEO Curtis Morgan told CNBC’s on Monday.

“I don’t believe [coal] is going to have a renaissance,” Morgan said in an exclusive “Mad Money ” interview. “I think it’s on its way out.”

* Today

Vistra Energy announced Wednesday it is closing its coal burning power plants in Canton, Havana, Hennepin and Coffeen.

The company said in a statement it will retire the four power plants in order to meet new revisions to the Multi-Pollutant Standard Rule introduced by the Illinois Pollution Control Board.

About 300 people will lose their jobs in the closures. The company is working to provide services for those workers.

Vistra said it was closing the four power plants to save the other four plants it operates in Illinois. The company’s emissions in Illinois will be driven down 57 to 61 percent by the closures, getting it under the new cap, the company said. […]

State Rep. Mike Unes (R-East Peoria), who represents the area where Canton’s Duck Creek Power Station is based, pinned the blame for the closures on former Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Future Jobs Energy Act he signed into law in 2016.

* But as noted in the first story in this post, it’s not all about the environmental regulations. From a Vistra press release

Vistra Energy (NYSE: VST) and its subsidiaries today announced the four power plants that will retire in order to meet the requirements of the recently approved revisions to the Multi-Pollutant Standard rule imposed by the Illinois Pollution Control Board (IPCB). Without this rule change, the company’s entire downstate fleet was at risk of near imminent retirement. […]

“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.

Emphasis added.

* Meanwhile

Irving-based Vistra Energy will soon be the electricity provider for an industry-leading percentage of customers in competitive U.S. markets with a $475 million purchase of Dallas-based Ambit Energy.

Vistra announced the cash deal Tuesday and said its share in Texas alone will grow to one of every three residential consumers. Nationally, Vistra will have 26% of customers in competitive markets.

…Adding… From comments…

Let’s not ignore the fact that this is exactly what they asked for.

They worked hand in hand with Rauner’s EPA to rewrite pollution rules that allow them to shut down their cleaner-burning plants and use their dirtier plants more.

JB’s EPA made some slight changes to the rule, but in effect, Vistra got EXACTLY what they wanted.

Now they are blaming the Governor for shutting down the plants?

That’s fresh.

…Adding… Sen. Andy Manar…

Closing down the cleanest coal-fired power plant in the world makes zero sense. Today, Vistra, the Illinois EPA and Pollution Control Board together failed the environment.

Shame on the Pollution Control Board for not doing its homework and allowing this to happen. If power plants are to be closed, the worst polluters should close first.

In addition, the economic loss related to this closure cannot be fully realized today. Hard-working, middle-class families have had their lives turned completely upside down. Our singular goal in the coming days and weeks should be to help these families through the economic crisis that Vistra set into motion today.

I remain puzzled as to why an out-of-state power company would purchase power plants solely for the purpose of shutting them down. From all outward appearances, Vistra is using Illinois’ Multi-Pollutant Standard Rule (MPS) as an excuse to set into motion something they always intended to do.

If that rule was truly intended to reduce emissions, this move stands in stark contrast to that goal.

…Adding… Sen. Dave Koehler…

I am incredibly saddened by the announcement that Duck Creek will close. The hardships that the workers at this plant will endure cannot be understated. They are not statistics or lines on a balance sheet. They are human beings, and I stand committed to working with the governor’s administration in Springfield to bring much needed economic support to both their families and the rest of the Fulton County community.

The fact is the current business market for coal-based energy is simply no longer sustainable. As we transition to an energy economy that focuses on limiting emissions, we must be proactive in helping those communities that this will adversely effect.

…Adding… Sierra Club Illinois Director Jack Darin…

“Vistra’s announcement today is exactly what the company and Dynegy have stated it has wanted to do over the last couple years in pursuing revisions to Illinois’ Multi-Pollutant Standard: secure greater ‘flexibility’ in meeting less stringent, state pollution limits, so that the company can retire less polluting plants and continue running dirty plants.

“This aging fleet has changed corporate hands three times in the last several years and instead of responsibly investing in modern pollution controls and long-term plans for our Illinois’ workforce, Texas energy corporations have routinely sought delays from state regulators in reducing pollution and have chosen to abruptly shutter units it knew were risky investments upon purchase. While these companies repeatedly claimed financial hardship it has simultaneously brokered expensive deals and lucrative mergers for Houston shareholders.

“We are concerned about the workers and communities impacted by these announcements. It is increasingly urgent that the State of Illinois put plans and programs in place that provide job opportunities and new economic development for those impacted, and that they are prioritized for all the benefits the clean energy economy can deliver. The Clean Energy Jobs Act (SB2132/B3624) will provide a framework for that transition, and we urge the General Assembly to consider and approve it in their fall veto session.”

…Adding… IL Clean Jobs Coalition…

Long before JB Pritzker was elected governor, Vistra CEO Curtis Morgan went on CNBC on April 16, 2018 and promised higher stock dividends and said coal ‘is on its way out.’ The year before, in 2017, the company’s Dynegy division asked the Rauner administration for the rule that made it easier and more profitable for the company to close the four plants they announced today. Because Texas-based Vistra puts its shareholders first and intends to cut and run on local Illinois communities, we must act to protect the people who will lose their jobs and communities that will lose the property tax revenues that fund their local schools, police and fire services. The Clean Energy Jobs Act is the only legislation designed to help these struggling communities, not out of state polluting companies, by creating new jobs, replacing tax revenue and supporting workers affected by plant closures.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

14 Comments
  1. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Aug 21, 19 @ 9:43 am:

    The big tell how others will take the news of these closings, like downstate (central and southern Illinois) Raunerite legislators bemoan the closings and the need of coal, and coal firing electric plants.

    As the President is the chief cheerleader of all things coal, it will be this realization of where we all stand when it comes to energy, business, coal, and the politics of all three.

    ===State Rep. Mike Unes (R-East Peoria), who represents the area where Canton’s Duck Creek Power Station is based, pinned the blame for the closures on former Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Future Jobs Energy Act he signed into law in 2016.===

    The correct political pivot now should be the GOP, less Schneider, less Shaw, less IPI, less Raunerites, and rebrand in a way that Unes and others can force a rebirth… but… Unes wants the plant open, and blames Rauner so it gets kinda tricky to that whole “turn around the party away from the turnaround agenda”.

    That’s how warped Raunerism made the ILGOP, and made rational thought almost impossible.

    So, do the downstate folks, the Raunerites blaming Rauner now embrace the President more when it comes to coal, even at the cost of rational energy thought? Does this devolving continue because of coal? It’s not just as “simple” of siding about jobs and plants. Nope. It’s deciding if past-looking thinking is most important to keep a political point to win in the short term, or decide the coal industry is already dying and voters need to be led with more forward-looking thinking and the party needs to be leading this new energy outlook.


  2. - Ok - Wednesday, Aug 21, 19 @ 9:49 am:

    Let’s not ignore the fact that this is exactly what they asked for.

    They worked hand in hand with Rauner’s EPA to rewrite pollution rules that allow them to shut down their cleaner-burning plants and use their dirtier plants more.

    JB’s EPA made some slight changes to the rule, but in effect, Vistra got EXACTLY what they wanted.

    Now they are blaming the Governor for shutting down the plants?

    That’s fresh.


  3. - Huh? - Wednesday, Aug 21, 19 @ 10:46 am:

    Last year, Ameren rebuilt and upgraded the transmission line from the Hennepin power plant to Spring Bay. And now the Hennepin plant is closing. Makes one wonder if ameren should have saved their money.


  4. - Anon221 - Wednesday, Aug 21, 19 @ 11:00 am:

    Vistra 2nd Quarter Call. The Q & A includes Illinois items include the Fall Veto session and even a possible “Because Madigan”.

    https://www.google.com/amp/s/finance.yahoo.com/amphtml/news/vistra-energy-corp-vst-q2-022347567.html


  5. - Dave W - Wednesday, Aug 21, 19 @ 11:34 am:

    Coal is still an extremely efficient form of energy. But with excessive government regulations, it becomes too expensive. Chicago politicians aren’t concerned about cheap, efficient energy, downstate jobs, etc.


  6. - Lester Holt’s Mustache - Wednesday, Aug 21, 19 @ 11:37 am:

    ==“I don’t believe [coal] is going to have a renaissance,” Morgan said in an exclusive “Mad Money ” interview. “I think it’s on its way out.”==

    This doesn’t make any sense. We were repeatedly and specifically promised by the president that coal was coming back. Now coal fired plants are shutting down, and I read the other day that steel companies are laying off hundreds of workers. What the heck is going on here? Surely we wouldn’t have been….deceived?


  7. - Chicagonk - Wednesday, Aug 21, 19 @ 11:41 am:

    I sympathize with workers who are losing their jobs. Coal is a great cheap fuel source, but it is undeniably one of the leading causes of global warming. It’s unfortunate that the cleaner plants are the ones going off line, but even these “clean” plants still emit more carbon dioxide than any other electricity source in Illinois.


  8. - Going nuclear - Wednesday, Aug 21, 19 @ 12:56 pm:

    This same story is repeating itself elsewhere across the country as the electric power sector transitions to better, cleaner and cheaper alternatives. The closure of the coal plants obviously presents challenges and we need bipartisan leadership to plan ahead and ease the hardship for the affected workers.


  9. - Just Saying - Wednesday, Aug 21, 19 @ 1:50 pm:

    Couldn’t they convert to natural gas?


  10. - MyTwoCents - Wednesday, Aug 21, 19 @ 5:07 pm:

    It was also interesting seeing the reactions of Rep. Hammond, Sen. Rezin and Rep. Bourne on Twitter. Rep. Hammond & Sen. Rezin kept it pretty middle of the road, support the workers. Bourne went full partisan, blame the Pritzer Admin., etc.


  11. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Aug 21, 19 @ 5:14 pm:

    ===Rep. Hammond & Sen. Rezin kept it pretty middle of the road, support the workers. Bourne went full partisan===

    Ms. Bourne, “wasted talent”… The saddest thing in life is wasted talent, and the choices that you make will shape your legislative career.


  12. - Biker - Wednesday, Aug 21, 19 @ 6:16 pm:

    Strange reading environmentalists doing anything but applauding at 20% of Illinois’ coal capacity going offline. This is a practical read of the industry economics and climate change reality. This is great news.


  13. - https://petsharkvacuum.tumblr.com/post/186357254421/shark-ionflex-duoclean-if205-cordless-ultra-light - Thursday, Aug 22, 19 @ 5:54 am:

    This website really has all the information I wanted concerning this
    subject and didn’t know who to ask.


  14. - Da Big Bad Wolf - Thursday, Aug 22, 19 @ 6:03 am:

    ==State Rep. Mike Unes (R-East Peoria), who represents the area where Canton’s Duck Creek Power Station is based, pinned the blame for the closures on former Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Future Jobs Energy Act he signed into law in 2016.==

    Read the FJEA. I don’t see how this law caused Vistra to shut down four power plants.


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