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Southwest Electric Power Co. of Shreveport said this week that it will close its coal-burning Dolet Hills generation plant near Mansfield, Louisiana, as part of a deal with the Sierra Club approved by the Arkansas Public Service Commission.
“The retirement of Dolet Hills is a win for ratepayers, public health and the environment,” Cherelle Blazer, senior campaign representative for Sierra Club’s “Beyond Coal” effort in Louisiana and Arkansas, said in a news release.
The environmental group had raised concerns about the economic viability of the Dolet Hills power station, suggesting that its continued operation may actually be costing Swepco customers money.
A Swepco spokesman told Arkansas Business that the utility aims to close the plant by the end of 2026 and would make the necessary regulatory filings at least 12 months before its retirement. Swepco also noted that, as part of the settlement, the Sierra Club would withdraw its pending challenges related to the plant in Texas and Louisiana.
A Sierra Club analysis said that permanently retiring the plant would save Swepco customers more than $60 million a year in electric bills and that the plant consistently costs more to operate than what it makes in revenue.
“This is a golden opportunity for investment in Louisiana and Arkansas with more cost-effective clean energy capital projects like building solar and wind capacity,” Blazer said. “Sierra Club supports a just transition for affected workers and front line communities who have suffered from dirty coal pollution for over 40 years.”
Swepco spokesman Peter Main said the plant’s “environmental performance has been exceptional for decades, operating in full compliance with applicable federal and state regulations protective of human health and the environment.”
“With this agreement, we continue to focus on the economic operations of the plant and lignite mine to best serve our customers,” Main said in an email. “This action follows our change to seasonal operations last year as we adjust to electric power market conditions and the challenges of mining the Oxbox lignite reserves.”
The Arkansas PSC approved the settlement in December as part of a broader review that included a $24 million rate increase.
Swepco is a subsidiary of American Electric Power of Columbus, Ohio, and has about 536,000 customers, including 120,000 in Arkansas. Dolet Hills is co-owned by Swepco and Cleco Corporate Holdings LLC.