LA CROSSE (AP) — Dairyland Power Cooperative plans to close its coal-fired station in Genoa by the end of 2021.

The La Crosse-based utility announced the decision Thursday. The move will end 50 years of continuous operation at the site and put about 80 employees of the 345-megawatt station out of work.

Dairyland CEO Barbara Nick said the age and inefficiency of the station — and the company’s plans to build a $700 million natural gas plant in Superior — are the main reasons for the closure.

In recent years, Dairyland officials have developed a sustainable generation plan meant to phase out coal and ramp up the use of renewable energy sources, while minimizing harm to employees and communities, the La Crosse Tribune reported.

Among those efforts is construction of the Nemadji Trail Energy Center in Superior, a joint venture with Duluth, Minn.-based Minnesota Power. The Wisconsin Public Service Commission approved the project last week. Dairyland officials said the plant could open as soon as 2025.

The Sierra Club praised the decision to close the Genoa station but questioned the merits of the planned Nemadji plant. While one fewer coal plant in Wisconsin will mean “cleaner air, cleaner water and progress toward reducing climate-disrupting emissions,” the group said replacing it with a gas plant ”would be an economic and environmental disaster."

Dairyland will offer internal placement opportunities, outplacement services and skill development programming for the Genoa employees.

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