Luminant cutting 132 Texas jobs with mine closure

The state’s largest power generator, Dallas-based Luminant, said it will eliminate 132 jobs in December as it shutters its Oak Hill mine south of Longview in East Texas.

As coal power plants continue to struggle financially with natural gas and renewable power gaining market share, many Texas coal plants are only operating during select summer and winter months when demand is strongest. As such, Luminant is closing one of the four lignite coal mines that feeds its Martin Lake power plant. Because of a collective bargaining agreement, some of the job cuts are coming from the other mines that will remain in production as Luminant consolidates operations.

“This has been a very difficult decision, but one that is required to continue to run the business efficiently,” wrote Tim Bosecker, Martin Lake mines director, in a letter to the Texas Workforce Commission released Monday.

The announcement comes just a month after the Westmoreland Coal Co. said it will cut about 250 Texas jobs when it closes its Jewett Mine after NRG Energy opted to switch to cleaner-burning coal from Wyoming.

The moves comes as the power sector in Texas and across the country increasingly switches to cleaner fuels. NRG is switching to low-sulfur coal with less carbon emissions than Texas lignite, commonly called brown coal.

Early this year, Luminant closed three small North Texas mines — its Winfield, Monticello and Thermo mines — in order to also make the switch from lignite  to Wyoming’s Powder River Basin coal.

Luminant, which owns the most coal-fired power generation in Texas, is increasingly looking to shift toward other power generation sources. Luminant bought two major gas-fired power plants early this year in northeastern Texas.

Luminant has struggled financially in recent years, and its parent company, Dallas-based Energy Future Holdings, filed for bankruptcy protection in early 2014 with more than $40 billion in debt. However, Luminant and its retail electricity sibling, TXU Energy, emerged from bankruptcy in early October under the newly created parent company, TCEH Corp.