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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.

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.
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Community asset or potential hazard?

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

A significant revision

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