Well, we certainly are closing out this year with lots of good news to report. Today, the Sierra Club and Audubon are announcing a legal settlement with American Electric Power/Southwestern Electric Power Company (AEP/SWEPCO) that will retire a dirty coal plant and bring us lots of new clean energy. If all you wanted for Christmas this year was clean air, then you are in luck!

The deal will retire Welsh 2, a dirty coal plant upwind of Arkansas in northeastern Texas. It requires AEP to install 400 MW of clean energy – the equivalent of a medium-sized coal plant. It includes $2 million to support increased energy efficiency programs in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Texas, which will help lower electric bills for families at a time when every penny counts. It prevents siting of transmission lines in sensitive natural areas. And it sets aside $8 million for land and habitat conservation in the region, which will go to the Nature Conservancy.

The settlement will also allow AEP to finish construction on the nearly-complete Turk power plant in Arkansas, which the Sierra Club and allies have been fighting for four years.

As Glen Hooks, our Sierra Club campaign representative in Arkansas, put it, “While we’d prefer that the Turk plant not be built, today’s settlement brings some very good news for Arkansas, which would not have been possible without years of citizen opposition to dirty coal plants.”

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For details about the settlement, you can read our press release.

This settlement continues a trend that is underway nationwide – old, dirty coal plants are on their way out, and clean energy is on the rise. In 2011, we saw the largest-ever solar investments, and the second-largest investments ever in wind. Since January 2010, over 10% of the nation’s coal plants have been slated for retirement. And since we launched our Beyond Coal campaign in 2002, we have defeated 161 new coal plants, leaving the door open for the clean energy revolution that is now taking center stage.

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This holiday, I’m thankful for all the allies and activists that helped make this happen, including amazing legal work by the Environmental Integrity Project.

This AEP settlement is one more landmark victory along the way towards a clean energy future. Have a happy holiday season – here’s to making 2012 a banner year for clean air, clean water, and clean energy!