Coal Plant

Coal is transported up a conveyor belt into the Big Brown coal-fired power plant in 2006 near Fairfield, Texas. The plant, which had used Wyoming's coal, was officially closed Monday.

David J. Phillip, AP

One of Wyoming coal’s customers, the Big Brown power plant in Texas, was officially phased out Monday, according to state electricity grid regulators.

Early retirements of coal-fired plants are one of the ongoing challenges for Wyoming’s coal sector.

After climbing out of a two-year downturn that wiped away nearly 1,000 coal mining jobs and sent three companies into bankruptcy, Powder River Basin firms are operating leaner and lighter. Those losing customers to plant closures have said in earlier interviews with the Star-Tribune that retirements of coal plants has been factored into their long-term planning.

Luminant, a subsidiary of Vistra Energy, announced its plan to close Big Brown and Monticello late last year. The plants could no longer compete with cheap natural gas power in Texas, the company argued in its justification to state regulators for the planned retirements.

Monticello closed in January.

The Luminant plants were two of the largest buyers of coal from the Rawhide mine north of Gillette in 2017.

Peabody Energy, which owns the Rawhide mine, also owns North Antelope Rochelle, the largest surface coal mine in the country.

Officials for the company say Peabody can adapt to reduced demand, shifting resources from its different mines as need arises.

The company recently announced a potential decrease in coal production in Wyoming for this year.

Groups that advocate for a move to renewable energy noted the closure will benefit Texas’ air quality.

The Sierra Club said in a release Monday that Big Brown’s closure ended the largest source of sulfur dioxide in the U.S. in 2016, citing data from the Energy Information Administration.

Follow energy reporter Heather Richards on Twitter @hroxaner

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Energy Reporter

Heather Richards writes about energy and the environment. A native of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, she moved to Wyoming in 2015 to cover natural resources and government in Buffalo. Heather joined the Star Tribune later that year.

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