Goodbye Gerlach, Nevada. Farewell Jerome, Idaho. Ta-ta Twin Oaks, Texas. Ciao Coleto Creek, Texas. Sempra affirmed March 29 that it is extricating itself from the coal-fired power plant business. business. Mike Niggli, president, Sempra Generation, told Circuit that that coal was seen as "a great opportunity." However, he added, "We're cashing in and using that money for natural gas." The investments will be in pipelines, gas storage, and liquefied natural gas, Niggli explained. He declined to address whether the switch was linked to coal-fired generation's carbon dioxide impacts. Sempra ran into political opposition in Idaho, where the legislature put a moratorium on its proposed coal plant near Jerome last week. It also faced opposition from a coalition of 20 community groups for its proposed plant near Gerlach, Nevada. Sempra Generation decided to sell its development rights to potential coal-fired plants in those states. Given planned transmission lines, those plants could have sent energy to California. Sempra sold one of its Texas coal plants for a nice profit. For the past year, Sempra, the parent company of San Diego Gas & Electric and SoCal Gas, was poised at the intersection of a coal-fired energy path and a natural gas\/liquefied natural gas road (Circuit, Feb. 25, 2005). It decided to back out of the proposed Idaho plant in part because of opposition from the state legislature. In addition, the Bureau of Land Management, at Sempra's request, suspended environmental studies for the Granite Fox plant in Nevada at the beginning of March. plant in Nevada at the beginning of March. Niggli attributed the company's extrication from coal-based investments to financial reasons. "There's only so much one company can do," he said, referring to Sempra's push into liquefied natural gas and other gas ventures. Last week, the economic and social responsibility organization Ceres ranked Sempra as a laggard among national utilities, largely because of its pursuit of coal power ( because of its pursuit of coal power (Circuit, March 24, 2006). "I looked at it from a straight financial perspective and I couldn't make any sense" of Sempra's coal policy, said Dan Bakal, Ceres electric power program director. Sempra made it clear, he added, that the Nevada and Idaho plants were to send power to California. At the same time, California is considering methods to cap emissions from imported coal-fired electricity. Sempra was also getting pressure from shareholders because of its coal plans. The New York Comptroller's Office, which is responsible for about $30 million in investments in Sempra through state pension funds, filed a shareholder resolution last October. Noting that the California Public Utilities Commission is expected to add a greenhouse gas cost of $8 per ton of CO2 in long-term contracts, the comptroller wanted to know how Sempra is "responding to rising regulatory, competitive, and public pressure to significantly reduce carbon dioxide and other emissions from the company's current and proposed power plant operations." The resolution never came to a vote, however. Sempra got it kicked out on a technicality because the comptroller changed banks during the year. The office had planned on refiling the resolution this year, according to Patrick Doherty, director of corporate responsibility. There were also pressures from Wall Street. Sempra LNG is poised to spend about $4 billion on building its two liquefied natural gas terminals in the near future. Its San Diego Gas & Electric and SoCal Gas utilities are expected to spend about $6 billion for infrastructure. There's also a new pipeline from the Rockies to the Midwest. Thus, the company faces a skewed debt-to-equity structure. Selling the existing coal plants, as well as refraining from investing in new ones, helps even out that ratio. The Texas coal plants were bought at a low market price. Niggli said the 305 MW Twin Oaks plant was bought for $120 million and sold for $480 million. The company's half interest in the 632 MW Coleto Creek plant was bought for $430 million. Sempra announced it was selling its interest in the plant in December 2005.