The nation's largest public utility has voted to close six coal-powered units in Alabama and replace two more in Kentucky with a new natural gas plant.
At a Thursday meeting, Tennessee Valley Authority CEO Bill Johnson said increasingly stringent environmental regulations and flat power demand have made it necessary to rethink how the utility generates power.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell met with Johnson last month to seek continued operation of the coal-burning Paradise Fossil Plant in Drakesboro, Ky. in Muhlenberg County. One coal-fired unit will remain there.
TVA officials tell 14 News they are going to build a separate gas plant in 2 to 4 years and then shutdown Units 1 and 2 at the Paradise plant.
The board also voted to close all five units at the Colbert plant in northwest Alabama and one of two remaining units at the Widow's Creek plant in northeast Alabama.
Board members from Alabama and Kentucky said the closures were difficult but necessary.
The Tennessee Valley Authority released the following statement regarding the changes at the Paradise Fossil Plant:
Today, the Tennessee Valley Authority announced the retirement of two coal-burning units of the Paradise Fossil Plant in western Kentucky. The 2,258-megawatt plant is 50 years old and emits more than 13.6 million tons of carbon pollution every year. TVA will retire 1,408 megawatts at Paradise, more than half of the current coal-burning power of the plant, with plans for a new 1,000-megawatt natural gas plant.
"As TVA makes this crucial move beyond coal, it is poised as the nation's largest public power provider to continue to bring innovation to its service territories," said Nachy Kanfer, a senior official with the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign. "In this transition, TVA should bypass natural gas or any other dirty fossil fuel that would continue to exacerbate environmental and public health issues."
According to 2010 Clean Air Task Force data, Paradise has contributed to an annual 1,500 asthma attacks, 140 heart attacks and 93 deaths in Muhlenberg County, Ky.
TVA's announcement is preceded by five plants -- a quarter of the state's coal-burning plants -- scheduled for retirement in Kentucky, the nation's third largest coal producing state.
"Kentucky is proving that it can move beyond coal," said Alice Howell, Chair of the
Sierra Club's Cumberland Chapter."However, as these coal units are shuttered, communities need a commitment from TVA to make plans that would ensure a just economic transition for affected people and families. We have a long way to go, and we must continue to work together on a responsible plan."
Just last month, the Kentucky Public Service Commission approved a deal to resolve the future of power generation in eastern Kentucky after the 2015 retirement of the coal-fired generators at the Big Sandy Power Plant near Louisa, Kentucky. As part of the agreement, Kentucky Power pledged more than $1.1 million in shareholder funds towards economic development in low-income communities in Lawrence County, Ky., and surrounding counties.
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