TVA shutting down Widows Creek coal plant

The Widows Creek Fossil Plant in Stevenson, Ala.
photo The Widows Creek Fossil Plant in Stevenson, Ala.

The Tennessee Valley Authority will shut down the last operating unit at its oldest coal plant in Alabama by the end of the year.

TVA directors voted today to shutter the Widows Creek Fossil Plant near Stevenson, Ala., which TVA began building more than 60 years ago. TVA has previously idled all but one of the eight units at Widows Creek. The only remaining operating generator, Unit 7, is scheduled to be closed by the end of the year as part of TVA's efforts to meet stricter environmental rules,

Widows Creek was among the units TVA pledged to cut back to meet clean air standards and TVA Chief Operating Officer Charles "Chip" Pardee said today that new rules on coal ash are pushing TVA to expedite its planned shut down of the Unit 7 generator.

TVA had planned to close the unit by 2019, but new coal ash rules will make it too expensive to keep the unit 7 generator running after the current ash pond at Widows Creek reaches its capacity within the next year.

Pardee said the new coal ash rules will be expensive to implement, but TVA can limit some of its disposal costs by retiring the existing coal ash pit at Widows Creek early.

"There are compelling reaasons to close the plant later this year and begin decomissioning activities at the plant site," Pardee told the TVA board.

The shut down of Widows Creek follows earlier decisions by TVA to also shut down its coal units at its John Sevier, Allen, Paradise, Colbert and Johnsonville fossil plants.

"Our retirement of coal plants, including Widows Creek 7, has and will have a hard impact on employees who work at these plants," Johnson said during a TVA board meeting today in Huntsville, Ala. "We labor over these decisions and they have been tough to make."

The closing of the aging coal plants has helped TVA reduce most of its smog emissions from sulfur and nitrogen oxide emissions into the air and trimmed carbon dioxide emissions linked with climate change and now coming under proposed EPA carbon controls. The closing also is part of TVA's plan to convert all of its remaining coal plants to dry ash storage.

Monty Adams, a former Franklin County mayor and manager of the Sherwood Mining Co., which supplies limestone to Widows Creek from its plant in Sherwood Mining Co., said Widows Creek closing will hurt both plant and supplier employees.

"It is not just TVA employees that are at risk," he said. "It includes thousands of others - small businesses and others that are all there to support Widows Creek's mission. I ask that you consider keeping Widows Creek open at least long enough - at least five years or longer - to allow our communities and region to adjust. Please push the closure back."