TVA to shut down coal units at Widows Creek, Colbert, Paradise

Arkansas-St. John's Live Blog

OXFORD, Miss. - The Tennessee Valley Authority will shutter another eight coal units in Alabama and Kentucky and build a new natural gas plant in Kentucky as part of a strategy by TVA to try to cut the share of its power generated by coal in half while doubling its gas-fired generation.

TVA directors voted today to shut down the newest unit at Widows Creek Fossil Plant in northeast Alabama, all five units at the Colbert plant in Northwest Alabama and units 1 and 2 at the Paradise plant in western Kentucky.

To replace the shut down of two of the three coal units at the Paradise plant, TVA plans to spend up to $1.1 billion to build a natural gas-fired plant at the Paradise site. TVA Chief Generation Officer Chip Pardee said that the moves would avoid TVA having to spend more than $1 billion for pollution controls for Colbert and $163 million for pollution upgrades required for Widows Creek Unit 8.

Despite objections from Paradise backers in coal-rich western Kentucky, TVA projects it will be cheaper to use natural gas generation to produce electricity, rather than make costly pollution upgrades required to keep operating the two oldest units at Paradise, which TVA began building in 1959.

TVA President Bill Johnson said the change is needed to comply with new federal air quaity regulations, including new and proposed regulations on mercury and carbon emissions.

But Kentucky officials said the change will hurt the economy of western Kentucky.

"The majority of people in Kentucky want Paradise to stay on coal," Kentucky state Rep. Brent Yonts, a Democrat from Greenville, Ky. " To do anything other than that, we believe, is in violation of TVA's mission....and will lead to hte ruination of western Kentucky

Senate Minority Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., had urged TVA to invest in keeping the Paradise coal units and keeping other TVA coal facilities operating.

To allow a historically abundant and proven resource, such as coal, to fall by the wayside would ultimately threaten our energy independence," McConnell said in a statement.

Johnson said TVA's target mix of generation for the future would be to 40 percent from nuclear power, 20 percent from coal, 20 percent from natural gas and 20 percent from hydro and other renewable power.

Joe Ritch, the TVA director from Huntsville, Ala., said the decision "is painful but it is the right thing to do."

Read more in tomorrow's Times Free Press.

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