SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - We have some good news, bad news to report on the economic front.
First the good: SWEPCO and CLECO Power customers are expected to save a total of $85 million by the end of 2020.
Now the bad: To help make those savings a reality about half the workforce will be laid off in the next year at a lignite mine in Red River Parish.
In the Coushatta area of Red River Parish word that the Dolet Hills Lignite Mine will be losing roughly 135 workers in the next year has been a reaction of concern and sadness.
Those layoffs of SWEPCO employees at the Oxbow Mine are taking place because the year-round operation will soon drop from 3 of those giant dragline machines down to 1.
“We’re going to transition to the single dragline starting in early 2019. And we’re in the middle of a re-staffing process,” explained SWEPCO Spokesperson Carey Sullivan.
“So, we’ll identify what positions will be reduced and all those employees will be offered a severance program through SWEPCO and through AEP.”
The lignite mined at the Oxbow Mine fuels the CLECO Dolet Hills Power Station near Mansfield.
But the high cost of mining lignite at Oxbow, along with the low market price of power, mean the station will transition from generating electricity year-round to seasonal, during the hottest months when demand is highest, from June to September.
The silver lining: A CLECO spokesperson told us that none of their employees will be laid off. But for local residents, word of lost jobs is a big blow to the economy.
That included Brandon Williams who said, “People are desperate for jobs now, you know. People are trying to make it out here.”>
As for the bottom line in saving customers money, A CLECO spokesperson said their customers alone will save about $35 million by the end of 2020.
And when you combine that figure with the estimated savings for SWEPCO customers, it comes to as much as $85 million.
Sullivan added that there will likely be two waves of reductions in those SWEPCO Oxbow Mine employees, one early in 2019 and the other later in the year.