In 2023, the Pirkey Power Plant in East Texas, a coal-fired plant, will retire from AEP’s fleet. The plant is owned and operated by Southwestern Electric Power Company (SWEPCO). The adjacent Sabine Mine, which serves the plant, will also close. Two communities – Hallsville and Marshall – stand to lose tax base that supports local education and public services.
In May 2021, AEP and SWEPCO partnered with the Just Transition Fund to engage the communities in developing comprehensive, actionable plans to diversify the local economy. The Pirkey Transition Task Force is composed of more than a dozen local leaders and community stakeholders. They include representatives from two independent school districts, a local judge, the East Texas Council of Governments, the Greater Marshall Chamber of Commerce, the Harrison County Hispanic Lions Club, Texas State Technical College, Marshall Economic Development Corporation, and the Sabine Mine, among others. AEP and SWEPCO also participated on the Task Force. The Just Transition Fund served as a convener and facilitator. It helped the Task Force organize, identify priorities and resources, and develop a road map for economic diversification that can be carried forward. The Just Transition Fund committed six months to the Task Force, achieving the goals established at the outset.
The Task Force met biweekly to share data, identify resources, raise concerns and questions, vet ideas, and work collaboratively toward an action plan. The group began by identifying its priorities:
- Identify good jobs for displaced workers at the plant and the mine
- Keep families local
- Address the tax base gap that will occur when the plant retires
- Support economic development at the plant site and beyond
The Task Force organized community meetings in Hallsville and Marshall, giving residents the opportunity to learn about the plant and mine closure, the work of the Task Force and the vision for the communities’ futures. In addition, Task Force members attended local meetings of Rotary Clubs, Lions Clubs, and chambers of commerce to raise awareness and seek additional input.
To support communications efforts, AEP launched AEPcommunitytransition.com. It includes an episode of the AEP podcast, "Connected," that explains why AEP is transitioning to clean energy and how the company is supporting its employees and communities for future success. The website includes the schedule of planned coal-plant retirements and links to resources for communities. The Pirkey Plant’s transition work is featured on the site. The intent is to add each successive plant that will be retired from AEP’s coal fleet. This allows employees, communities and other stakeholders to follow our progress through this transition.