TVA closing 8 coal units at plants in Ala. and Ky.

Nov 15, 2013, 9:40 AM

(AP) – The nation’s largest public utility is shuttering eight coal-fired boilers at plants in Alabama and Kentucky, and more reductions could be in store over the next few years.

The Tennessee Valley Authority relied on coal to generate a majority of its electricity for decades, but at a Thursday board meeting in Oxford, Miss., CEO Bill Johnson said he hopes to reduce coal to just 20 percent of the utility’s portfolio over the next decade. It currently stands at 38 percent.

Johnson said the change is needed because power demand is down and environmental regulations are becoming stricter.

The board voted unanimously to shut down all five coal-burning units at the Colbert plant in Tuscumbia, Ala., one of two remaining units at the Widows Creek plant in Stevenson, Ala., and two of three units at the Paradise plant in Drakesboro, Ky. The Kentucky units will be replaced by a natural gas plant, but more than 200 of the 400 jobs there will be affected.

Colbert employs about 150 people, and Widows Creek employs about 175. Johnson said it was not immediately clear how many jobs would be lost at those two plants.

More closures could be coming over the next few years. Johnson said at a news conference after the meeting that the final unit at Widows Creek is still under evaluation as are the Allen plant in Memphis, Tenn., and the Shawnee plant near Paducah, Ky.

Stephen Smith is executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and a member of TVA’s Regional Energy Resource Council. He said that if TVA were planning to keep the coal-burning units at Allen, Shawnee and Widows Creek open, he would expect the utility to be preparing to upgrade them.

“If they are not taking measures to retrofit these plants, you can deduce that they will retire them,” he said.

“TVA is in coal country, yet it’s moving away from coal as a fuel source because it’s the right thing to do economically and environmentally.”

TVA board members from Kentucky and Alabama said voting in favor of the closures was a tough call because they will cost jobs in their communities.

“This is a personal nightmare for me,” said Peter Mahurin, a board member from Bowling Green, Ky. “But I must support what I believe to be in the best interest of TVA’s customers.”

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell met with Johnson last month in an effort to get TVA to continue operating all three coal-burning units at Paradise. The board had previously approved upgrading the two oldest units with environmental controls. But on Thursday, Chief Operating Officer Chip Pardee recommended building a gas plant instead.

He said the third unit at Paradise is newer and has sufficient environmental controls to continue operating on coal.

In a news release after the vote, McConnell blamed the Obama administration for the unit closures.

“I fought hard to prevent these changes and fortunately one of the units will continue to burn coal, saving hundreds of jobs,” he said.

Rick Newman is the top elected official in Muhlenberg County, where the Paradise plant is located. His father was a coal miner for 32 years, and he was upset by the decision to shut down two units there.

“I am sort of sick to my stomach,” he said. “Coal really is our legacy, for generations here. It seems to be disappearing and disappearing as days go by.”

Newman said that about half the coal burned at Paradise is mined there in the county, so the closure could affect mining jobs as well.

“This is going to be a blow, and I feel sorry for all those connected to coal,” he said. “But they could’ve closed the whole plant down. We’re thankful for that.”

TVA board member Joe Ritch, of Huntsville, Ala., said it was a difficult decision to close units.

“As painful as it is, it’s the right thing to do.”

He said saving a few jobs now would reduce TVA’s competitiveness for years to come.

Daryl Dewberry, the United Mine Workers’ international vice president for the Southeast, said the decision was not a surprise because federal regulations are making it harder to burn coal. He also predicted that the move would increase the cost of energy.

“President Obama’s war on coal is going to put us in worse economic shape,” he said.

But TVA is not abandoning coal entirely. The utility is spending about $1 billion to upgrade a coal-fired plant in Gallatin, Tenn., and other units remain open.

In addition to reducing energy from coal, Johnson said he hopes to increase the percentage of nuclear power in the utility’s portfolio from about 32 percent to 40 percent.

He told the board that the utility is on track to complete a second reactor at the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant in Spring City, Tenn., by the end of 2015. But there are no immediate plans to complete a reactor at the mothballed Bellefonte Nuclear Power Station northeast of Scottsboro, Ala. Johnson said the estimated cost of completion has risen from $4.9 billion to between $7.4 and $8.7 billion.

Johnson said there is no short-term need for the plant, but the utility intends to maintain it as a viable option for the future.

___

Associated Press writers Dylan Lovan, in Louisville, Ky., and Phillip Rawls, in Montgomery, Ala., contributed to this report.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

United States News

Demonstrators block traffic protesting the death of Tyre Nichols on January 27, 2023 in Memphis, Te...
Associated Press

Memphis police chief disbands unit responsible in beating of Tyre Nichols

The unit is composed of three teams of about 30 officers and had been inactive since Tyre Nichols' Jan. 7 arrest.
2 days ago
The image from video released on Jan. 27, 2023, by the City of Memphis, shows Tyre Nichols on the g...
Associated Press

Memphis authorities release video in Tyre Nichols’ death

Video showing Memphis officers beating a Black man was made public Friday after they were charged with murder in the death of Tyre Nichols.
3 days ago
Demonstrators stage a rally in front of the White House to celebrate President Joe Biden's plan to ...
Kevin Stone

Lawsuits keeping over 300,000 Arizonans from getting student loan relief

Lawsuits are preventing more than 300,000 Arizonans from having some or all of their student debt dismissed, the Biden administration said Friday.
3 days ago
FILE -  A Goodyear tire sits on display at a tire shop on Feb. 12, 2014, in South Euclid, Ohio. A f...
Associated Press

Arizona lawyer subpoenaed in criminal investigation of Goodyear tires

A federal grand jury in Los Angeles is gathering evidence in a criminal investigation of Goodyear recreational vehicle tires.
4 days ago
Following days of rain, floodwaters cover streets in the Planada community of Merced County, Calif....
Associated Press

Atmospheric rivers in California boost water allocation for cities

Public water agencies in California will be getting more water from the state because of recent heavy rain.
4 days ago
(Brian Munoz/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP, File)...
Associated Press

FDA declines to regulate CBD; calls on Congress for fix

The Food and Drug Administration said Thursday there are too many unknowns about CBD products to regulate them as foods or supplements under the agency’s current structure and called on Congress to create new rules for the massive and growing market. The marijuana-derived products have become increasingly popular in lotions, tinctures and foods, while their […]
4 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet edges out cable for everyday use

In a world where technology drives so much of our daily lives, a lack of high-speed internet can be a major issue.
...
Quantum Fiber

Stream 4K and more with powerful, high-speed fiber internet

Picking which streaming services to subscribe to are difficult choices, and there is no room for internet that cannot handle increased demands.
...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet can improve everyday life

Quantum Fiber supplies unlimited data with speeds up to 940 mbps, enough to share 4K videos with coworkers 20 times faster than a cable.
TVA closing 8 coal units at plants in Ala. and Ky.