The plans by Empire District Electric and Minnesota Power are among the latest developments this summer as electric utilities across the Midwest pursue strategies aimed at addressing largely flat electric load growth and compliance with new federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations.

At its 189-megawatt Asbury plant, Joplin, Missouri-based Empire installed a dry scrubber to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions, a baghouse to lower particulate emissions and an activated carbon injection system to decrease mercury levels.

Empire’s current integrated resource plan calls for operating Asbury, the utility’s largest coal plant, at least through 2033, according to spokeswoman Julie Maus. She said Empire is scheduled to file a new IRP with the Missouri Public Service Commission in 2016, although it is unlikely to differ much on plans to keep running Asbury.

Coal comprises about 30% of Empire total generating portfolio. The utility also owns a 12% interest, or 190 megawatts, in the Iatan coal plant near Kansas City, Missouri, and a 7.5% stake, or 50 MW, in the Plum Point coal plant near Osceola, Arkansas.

Minnesota Power, meanwhile, plans to stop burning coal at its 225-megawatt Taconite Harbor plant on the north shore of Lake Superior late next year. One of the 75-megawatt units at the 60-year-old plant was deactivated this year.

The Allete Co. subsidiary intends to idle the remaining two units at Taconite Harbor in late 2016 as part of its “EnergyForward” plan even though they were retrofitted with pollution controls in recent years.

“Planning for a smooth evolution away from our smaller coal units is an important part of EnergyForward,” said Al Rudeck, Minnesota Power’s vice president of strategy and planning. The company also plans to further reduce emissions and continue operating two smaller units at its 1,000-megawatt Boswell Energy Center, its largest generating station.