The first financial report Luminant filed with the Railroad Commission in March detailed the company's debt. Nearly all of its assets, including the power plants, are collateral for loans, and Luminant is a guarantor for the parent company's debt.
The commission says Luminant has 13 surface mining permits and a cumulative self-bond of more than $1 billion. If the company were to default on its responsibilities, the commission estimates it would cost the state more than $910 million to restore the land. Earlier this month, Luminant estimated its reclamation costs at about $101 million.
When any bankruptcy case is settled, Luminant could be forced to close some power plants or mines, which are becoming less attractive businesses because of the cost of coal-fired operations, Hempstead said.
In Luminant's case, shutting down a power plant means nearby mines would close because they use lignite coal -- a soft, wet variety that can't be transported long distances. As a result, the company has built its plants within a few miles of the mines. When mining stops, reclamation begins.
Residents, though, are wary.
"If they're looking at them every 90 days, that tells you everything," Anderson said.
But their lives and towns are closely entwined with Luminant, its success, and its potential failure.
Several generations of Cindy Jones' family have battled with Luminant over land on the outskirts of Tatum. Her grandfather, Walter Young, felt he was forced in the 1970s to hand over 100 of his 135 acres to Luminant's predecessor when it built a reservoir needed for the power plant's cooling system.
Now, the company wants the rest of the family's land for mine expansion, but they refuse to sell, Jones said.
"I wouldn't mind to see them shut down and go away," she said.
Then again, she notes, her husband has a good-paying job as a Luminant train driver. She has relatives and friends who also work for Luminant.
"It's like working for the devil," she muses, then adds, "It would really be bad if they went under."