Sad but good

Sighs of relief in local area after Luminant decision on closings

Luminant’s decision last week to close two mines and two power plants units, throwing an estimated 500 persons out of work, was one of those conflicting news stories that tug on different emotions.

Obviously, 500 people losing their jobs is not anything to celebrate.

And, just as obviously, the fact that those 500 won’t be employees of Luminant’s Sandow Power Plant or Three Oaks Mine is very good news for the Rockdale area.

It’s been obvious since the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) added Texas to its new Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) in July, that some lignite-fired power units, and lignite mining operations, in Texas were going down and going down soon.

That’s because the new rule specifically addresses the amount of emissions generated by burning lignite coal. Lignite coal is what’s been mined in the Rockdale area for more than a century.

From the start, the “smart money,” if there is such a thing, was betting that Luminant facilities in east Texas would bear the brunt of anticipated shutdowns, based on their ages and anti-pollution technology.

Luminant’s Big Brown Units in Freestone County are 39 years old, Monticello (Mount Pleasant) is 33 and Martin Lake (Rusk County) is 32.

Rockdale’s Sandow Unit 5 is two years old. Unit 4 was built in the late 1970s and upgraded in the 1980s but its new anti-pollution system is four years old.

And that’s what happened. Luminant is closing two units at Monticello and lignite mines at Big Brown/Turlington, along with Thermo and Winfield near Sulphur Springs.

Sandow and Three Oaks are being left alone, for now.

By the way, Luminant said the changes will happen if its lawsuit asking Texas be removed from the EPA rule is unsuccessful.

There’s a very quick timeline involved. The new rule is to take effect Jan. 1, 2012.—M.B.

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