Paradise Fossil Plant

TVA Votes to Close Coal-Fired Power Plant in Kentucky

Feb 14, 2019
Becca Schimmel

A federal utility board voted Thursday to close a coal-fired power plant in Kentucky, despite objections from President Donald Trump and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, in a move the board says will save its more than 10 million customers $320 million.

The Tennessee Valley Authority voted to retire the remaining coal-fired unit at the Paradise Fossil Plant along the Green River in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky. The decision could put 131 people out of work and could affect an additional 135 people who work in nearby coal mines that supply the plant.

Becca Schimmel, Ohio Valley Resource

The small town of Paradise, Kentucky isn’t feeling so blissful these days as the the future of the Paradise Fossil Plant remains in question.

The western Kentucky community could learn on Thursday the fate of its last coal-fired power plant in Muhlenberg County.  The Tennessee Valley Authority’s Board of Directors will meet in Chattanooga, TN to consider closing the Kentucky plant, as well as the coal-powered Bull Run Fossil Plant in Oak Ridge, TN.

Becca Schimmel, Ohio Valley Resource

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin says closing the last coal-fired unit at the Paradise Fossil Plant in Muhlenberg County would be a "huge mistake."  Bevin outlined his concerns this month in a letter to the Tennessee Valley Authority.

The TVA is considering closing the last remaining coal-powered unit after an environmental assessment projected it to have high future maintenance and environmental compliance costs.

The Paradise power plant in Drakesboro has been in operation since 1970.  Units 1 and 2 were replaced with natural gas generation in 2017.

Tennessee Valley Authority

A lawsuit has been filed against the Tennessee Valley Authority over its plans to shut down two coal-fired units at its plant in Muhlenberg County.

The suit brought by a group of landowners and the Kentucky Coal Association argues the TVA didn’t perform a proper environmental impact statement before it decided to close the units at the Paradise Fossil Plant, and replace them with a natural gas unit scheduled to begin operations in 2017.

Meanwhile, ground continues to be cleared for the project. Speaking to reporters in June at the Paradise plant in Drakesboro, TVA transition manager Billy Sabin said the excavation stage should be completed within three months.

“That’s expected to complete sometime around the September timeframe. When that is complete, we’ll be working on getting our permits in place, and starting actual construction the end of this year to the first of next year.”

A TVA spokesman says officials are reviewing the lawsuit and will respond appropriately. The federally-owned corporation says reducing the number of coal-burning units at its Muhlenberg County plant from three to one will cut its coal reliance at the facility by half.

Tennessee Valley Authority

Construction crews have cleared about 60 percent of the land needed to begin building a new natural gas facility at the Paradise Fossil Plant in Muhlenberg County. The new plant is scheduled to open by spring of 2017, and will take the place of two coal burning units currently in operation at the TVA facility.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday at the future site of the new gas-burning unit, Transition Manager Billy Sabin said this week’s announcement of new E.P.A. regulations on power plant emissions won’t impact the Paradise Fossil Plant, because the TVA had already decided to reduce carbon emissions at a much faster rate than what the federal government is now seeking.

“We will have a reduction of about 50 percent of coal. Because Unit 3 will continue to run, it’s going to burn about 2.7 to 3 million tons of coal a year,” Sabin said. “So it’ll be about a 50 percent reduction from what we do now.”

Sabin says the excavation stage of the new cleaner-burning gas plant project will be completed by early 2015, with construction of the facility following. He says the new facility, known as a combined-cycle gas plant, has several advantages over the older coal-burning model.

Tennessee Valley Authority

The U.S. Supreme Court is upholding the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate coal pollution that crosses state lines.

Tuesday’s 6-2 decision is being called a major victory for the Obama administration’s environmental agenda, and will likely have a major impact on coal-fired power plants in Kentucky and other states.

The White House has put forth a set of new Clean Air Act regulations aimed at cutting pollution coming from coal-fired power plants. Coal industry advocates and many Republican lawmakers—including Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell—have sharply criticized those regulations, describing them as government overreach and a “war on coal.”

The EPA is expected to unveil new climate control regulations in June to cut down on carbon pollution from coal plants. Kentucky gets an estimated 90 percent of its electricity from coal-fired plants, such as the Paradise Fossil Plant in Muhlenberg County.

Many power suppliers have been anticipating increased scrutiny of coal pollution, and have been implemented changes at their plants to make their coal-fired operations more environmentally-friendly.

Tennessee Valley Authority spokesman Scott Brooks told WKU Public Radio that Tuesday's Supreme Court decision has "no impact" on the utility's plans for the Paradise plant.