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Duke Energy Closing Two Coal Plants Ahead Of Schedule

Duke Energy is shutting down two coal-fired power plants this spring. The plants are in Rowan and Gaston counties, and they're closing two years ahead of schedule.

The plants are really old, barely used and kind of dirty. The one in Rowan County is called Buck Steam Station and began burning coal in 1926. Three years later, Riverbend Steam Station in Gaston County powered up.

Now neither of them operates more than 80 days a year, and they wouldn't meet new environmental standards in 2015 without major changes.

So Duke Energy spokeswoman Erin Culbert said it's cheaper and greener to shut them down.

"It's a combination of the lower natural gas prices we're seeing currently, and the ability to dispatch with more options because of the merger's joint-dispatch agreement," Culbert said.

Lower prices are part of the reason Duke is bringing five natural gas plants online. The Environmental Protection Agency says those kind of plants don't pollute the air as much as coal plants. 

Also, the joint-dispatch agreement following Duke's merger with Progress Energy means the company has a lot more power plants, so now Duke can pick and choose the most efficient ones. 

The Rowan and Gaston plants will close in April. Culbert said Duke will try to help the 65 employees at the plants find jobs elsewhere in the company.

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