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This April 28, 2010 photo shows the Colstrip Steam Electric Station, a coal-fired power plant in Colstrip, Mont. (AP Photo/Matt Brown)

EPA regulations shutter two Wisconsin coal-fired generators

This is a bad week to work at a coal plant. Wisconsin’s Dairyland Power Cooperative announced it will be closing two coal-fired generating units, partly due to regulatory requirements that make it harder to burn coal.

Dairyland will be closing two coal-fired units at its Alma Station by the first quarter of 2015. The coal units have a capacity of 136 megawatts and were built during the Eisenhower administration. The Alma Station once boasted five coal-fired unit, but the first three were shut down in 2011.

The plant’s operators say the decision was not taken lightly and including several factors.

“These include age of the facility, system capacity requirements, regulatory requirements, projected maintenance needs and costs, fuel supply, overall cost of power production and regional market prices for energy,” said Bill Berg, Dairyland’s president and CEO.

“Dairyland is making every effort to minimize impacts on our employees,” Berg added. “We are offering eligible employees an early retirement program and have held several other recent positions open following retirements which will give some employees the opportunity to move into other vacant positions within our cooperative.”

The Alma Station will add to the hundreds of coal plants that have been closed or slated for early retirement due to Environmental Protection Agency regulations targeting coal-fired power plants, according to coal industry estimates.

“Already, EPA regulations have contributed to the closure of more than 300 coal units in 33 states,” said Laura Sheehan, spokeswoman for the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity.

Environmentalists are encouraging the Obama administration to continue to tighten regulations on coal plant emissions in order to squeeze the fuel out of the power market, arguing such plants are major contributors to global warming.

“[I]n less than three years the campaign has nearly doubled these predictions, securing the retirement of more than 58,000 megawatts: more than one sixth of the entire nation’s coal capacity and more than one quarter of all coal plants in the country,” said Verena Owen, co-leader of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign.

Dairyland plans to diversify its energy portfolio to include more renewable energy resources. Currently their portfolio holds 12 percent renewable energy and 88 percent fossil fuels.

“This decision also aligns with Dairyland’s generation resource plans that include the diversification of its resource mix, including the continued addition of renewable resources,” Berg said.

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