Environmental groups pan TVA proposal to replace Kingston coal plant with natural gas facility

By: - May 16, 2023 6:01 am
Aerial of the TVA plant in Kingsport Tennessee, Kingsport. on the Clinch River. An ash dam spill on December 22 2008 resulted in a major environmental issue for the area. (Photo: Karen Kasmauski for Getty Images)

Aerial of the TVA plant in Kingston Tennessee, on the Clinch River. An ash dam spill on December 22 2008 resulted in a major environmental issue for the area. (Photo: Karen Kasmauski for Getty Images)

The Tennessee Valley Authority released a draft proposal on Friday that calls for replacing its Kingston coal-fired plant with a natural-gas facility, a move to swap one fossil fuel for another that disappointed but did not surprise critics who have long pressed the nation’s largest utility to make the transition to clean energy.

The utility’s draft environmental impact statement weighs several options for the future of the Tennessee Kingston coal-fired plant, which in 2008 was the site of nation’s largest coal-ash spill.

It’s preferred option, the report said, is building a 1500-megawatt gas plant along with small-scale solar energy and battery storage at the Kingston site. A gas plant requires a 122-mile pipeline that would stretch between Kingston in northeast Tennessee and Trousdale, northeast of Nashville — running through eight Tennessee counties..

The report called it “the best overall solution to provide low-cost, reliable energy to the TVA power system.”

Environmental groups immediately disputed that characterization.

“Building new gas plants will worsen the impacts of climate change, create a less resilient power grid, and will force families across the Tennessee Valley to pay expensive fossil fuel prices for decades,” said Amanda Garcia, Tennessee office director for the Southern Environmental Law Center.

“TVA’s plan to build yet another dirty gas plant and pipeline is a giant gift to the fossil fuel industry,” said Gaby Sarri-Tobar, a campaigner at the Center for Biological Diversity’s energy justice program. “Our nation’s largest public utility is fueling the climate emergency when it should be prioritizing communities and a just, 100% renewable future. TVA’s 10 million customers and our climate deserve so much better.”

TVA’s report was dropped a day after the Biden administration proposed new restrictions on carbon monoxide emissions from gas- and coal-fired power plans as part of a comprehensive push to address climate change.

The proposed rules by the Environmental Protection Agency would require coal- and gas-fired plants to cut or capture nearly all their greenhouse gas emissions by 2038 – or risk being forced to close.

TVA said in a statement Monday that the agency is reviewing the proposed new emission guidelines.

TVA “will continue to evaluate these rules and potential impacts to our system,” the statement said. “TVA is a national leader in carbon reduction and is on a path to achieve 80% reduction by 2035 and net-zero by 2050″

Asked if the proposed rules could impact its plans for the Kingston site, the spokesperson said ” TVA will consider all applicable rules and regulations, current and pending,  in its review for the final” environmental impact study.

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Anita Wadhwani
Anita Wadhwani

Anita Wadhwani is a senior reporter for the Tennessee Lookout. The Tennessee AP Broadcasters and Media (TAPME) named her Journalist of the Year in 2019 as well as giving her the Malcolm Law Award for Investigative Journalism. Wadhwani is formerly an investigative reporter with The Tennessean who focused on the impact of public policies on the people and places across Tennessee.