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Captured by Coal

Big coal gave a tiny Texas town free land. There’s a major catch.

Sulphur Springs leaders say they want Luminant — Texas’ largest electricity generator — to leave in place a 120-foot-tall mound of excavated dirt at the site of a shuttered coal mine so they can build an amphitheater. But the soil contains potentially dangerous materials, according to state regulators.

By Kiah Collier, The Texas Tribune, and Naveena Sadasivam, Grist
A mound of toxic coal mine waste left by an energy company, Luminant, sits near farmland, homes and businesses in Sulphur Springs.
A 120-foot-tall mound of excavated dirt that contains acid-forming heavy metals sits on part of a former coal mine in northeast Texas. Luminant, the state’s largest electricity generator, excavated lignite from the land until 2016 to feed a nearby power plant, but it is still working to clean up the land.

Community asset or potential hazard?

Marc Maxwell, Sulphur Springs city manager, in front of the court house in the town square Jan. 23, 2019.
The former Thermo Mine facility in Sulphur Springs on Aug. 16, 2019.

A significant revision

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Environment State government Texas Railroad Commission