Community reacts on possible Fossil Plant closure

Community reacts on possible Fossil Plant closure
(Source: WFIE)

DRAKESBORO, KY (WFIE) - A western Kentucky community is on its toes, awaiting to hear the fate of its last coal-fired plant.

The future of Tennessee Valley Authority’s Paradise Fossil Plant in Muhlenberg County is up in the air.

The Tennessee Valley Authority Board has issued a draft Environmental Assessment on the potential retirement of the plant.

The fossil plant is located in Drakesboro, Kentucky, just outside of Central City.

TVA is reportedly considering its retirement because of the low price of natural gas and the increasing cost of keeping the plant in compliance with EPA standards.

We’re told the plant currently employs approximately 130 people.

If the coal plant is retired, residents tell us they fear it would have a devastating impact in the local economy.

“It wouldn’t just be the employees at TVA, it would be myself and everybody else that does business in the county," local business owner Scott Anderson told us.

Anderson, born-and-raised in Muhlenberg County, has owned Burger Shack in Drakesboro for the last eight years. The curbside restaurant is located several miles from the Paradise Fossil Plant.

“We’re probably at 65 to 70% of TVA business," Anderson replied, when asked how traffic from TVA employees benefit his profitability.

Anderson explained how he knows the hard way the impact TVA has on his success.

“Actually, when (Paradise) Unit One and Two was closed, we wound up having to close another restaurant here in the county," Anderson said. "We were out there daily, and it is just absorbent--it is scary to think about.”

The impact could hit hard beyond local business owners like Anderson. Another plant closure would have a negative ripple effect across the region, from county budgets, to retailers, to the county’s school system.

“I am very concerned with the effect on our local economy,” Republican State Representative Melinda Gibbons Prunty told us. “The loss of approximately 130 plus jobs and all of the effects on the vendors," Prunty said. "The trucking companies, the coal companies, the miners, everybody that contributes to the production of Unit 3.”

Muhlenberg County’s newly elected Judge executive, Democrat Curtis McGehee, weighed in on the challenges he could face in office if the closure happens.

“The county has relied upon coal severance monies to help us with our county budget, and even more importantly, Muhlenberg County has relied on the coal industry to be a very vital part of our economy," said McGehee.

TVA is a federal entity. Representative Prunty tells us she is doing what she can at the state level to pressure TVA Board members to not retire the plant.

Prunty is encouraging people to contact their federal legislators. She advises her constituents to respond to TVA’s public comment link here.

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