UPDATED: TVA moving away from coal as part of deal with EPA, states and citizen groups

April 14, 2011 by Ken Ward Jr.

UPDATED 2: The U.S. Environmental Protection just issued this news release:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced a settlement with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to resolve alleged Clean Air Act violations at 11 of its coal-fired plants in Alabama, Kentucky, and Tennessee. The settlement will require TVA to invest a TVA estimated $3 to $5 billion on new and upgraded state-of-the-art pollution controls that will prevent approximately 1,200 to 3,000 premature deaths, 2,000 heart attacks and 21,000 cases of asthma attacks each year, resulting in up to $27 billion in annual health benefits. TVA will also invest $350 million on clean energy projects that will reduce pollution, save energy and protect public health and the environment.

Copies of the settlements are posted here, here and here, and this is what EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson had to say:

This agreement will save lives and prevent billions of dollars in health costs. Modernizing these plants and encouraging clean energy innovation means better health protections and greater economic opportunities for the people living near TVA facilities. Investments in pollution control equipment will keep hundreds of thousands of tons of harmful pollutants out of the air we breathe, and help create green job opportunities that will reduce pollution and improve energy efficiency.

A list of the affected units is posted here and EPA has more information here.

UPDATED 3: Here’s a link to the TVA’s news release.

UPDATED: The Sierra Club just announced

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) board of directors approved a landmark agreement today with three citizen groups, four states and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), marking one of the largest pollution reduction agreements in the nation’s history.

This agreement requires TVA to phase out 18 units at dirty, coal-fired power plants and install modern pollution controls on three dozen additional units, thanks to more than 11 years of pressure from environmental groups, Southeastern states and the EPA. The blockbuster agreement – which includes the affected states of Alabama, Kentucky, North Carolina and Tennessee – represents the largest ever reduction in air pollution in the Southeastern United States. This agreement permanently retires an unprecedented 2,700 megawatts of dirty coal-fired electricity and will drastically reduce TVA’s emissions of dangerous sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, mercury and carbon pollution. Clean Air Task Force estimates that coal-fired power plants in the region cause more than 1,800 premature deaths and more than 2,400 heart attacks each year in the four-state region, and are a major source of area air pollution woes.


Could be a big announcement today out of the Tennessee Valley Authority’s annual meeting in Chattanooga. The Knoxville News previewed the story earlier this week:

If TVA’s Integrated Resource Plan gets a stamp of approval from the TVA Board of Directors on Thursday, it will mark the official beginning of a new direction for the agency.

The plan, which has been in the works for about two years, would move the Tennessee Valley Authority away from reliance on coal-produced power and toward greater use of nuclear, natural gas, renewable fuels, energy efficiency and other measures to meet power demand. TVA has already taken steps in that direction. In August it announced the idling of nine coal-fired units, representing about 1,000 megawatts of power capacity. TVA also has contracts to buy power from wind, solar and biomass sources.

Stay tuned …

4 Responses to “UPDATED: TVA moving away from coal as part of deal with EPA, states and citizen groups”

  1. rhmooney3 says:

    “This agreement permanently retires an unprecedented 2,700 megawatts of dirty coal-fired electricity…”

    As 4,700 megawatts out of its total 14,500 MW of coal-fired 59 unts were to be idled anyways, this agreement seems to be just PR spin.


    Integrated Resource Plan
    The plan identifies the resources that will be needed to satisfy expected energy demand in the Tennessee Valley region over the next 20 years. It is consistent with TVA’s Environmental Policy and it supports TVA’s renewed vision to be one of the nation’s leading providers of low-cost and cleaner energy by 2020. . . .

    March 4, 2011
    TVA 20-year power plan adds nuclear, natgas, cuts coal
    TVA currently operates 11 coal-fired power plants with 56 active units and three idled units with a total capacity of 14,500 MW.

    TVA said in the plan it could idle up to 4,700 MW by 2017 rather than retire the units so they would still be available to return with modifications and environmental additions if needed.

    TVA, like other coal generators faced with environmental uncertainties, has already said it plans to retire about 1,000 MW of old, inefficient coal units.

    Despite all the coal units TVA could idle by 2017, the company also said it could build a new coal plant of up to 900 MW to preserve the option of coal with carbon capture.

  2. Jason Kim says:

    Reducing our dependency on fossil fuels results in greater economic opportunities for us. To change this, the IEA suggests realigning fossil fuel subsidies to support clean energy, providing more incentives for private sector investment and market mechanisms, Jason Kim.

  3. Denny Haldeman says:

    In TVAs IRP, they had planned on 460 MW of biomass energy/forest burners to include in their “renewables” portfolio. The 460 MW would require 300,000 acres of forests per year or 6 million of the 14 million acres of forests in the TN Valley over 20 years. All that destruction will yield only 1/80th of current peak demand or 1/16th to 1/32nd of projected demand growth in the period.

    With this agreement TVA is considering even more biomass/forest burners.

    At 1750 MW the four boilers at the Shawnee fossil plant when converted to a biomass burner will require 22,750,000 tons of wood per year that would require clear cutting around a million acres per year. TVA is maintaining the option to convert another 12 dirty coal boilers to biomass as well.

    If they replace the total of 2700 MW of retiring coal plants with “renewables”/forest burners it will require over 35,000,000 tons of forests per year or close to 1,500,000 acres. The Tennessee Valley has 14,000,000 acres of forest remaining, including pine farms.

  4. Wow! At first reading this news I was happy the government for once was taking charge of shutting down coal plants but when I thought about it more they are doing the opposite of what they have promised for years…making jobs! By closing down 18 coal plants that provide reliable electric power sources the EPA has arguably put thousands of people out of work and while it helps reduce our carbon foot print it does little to help our struggling economy. Coal is our number 1 energy production in the US but we sell most of it to China as an electric power sources.It doesn’t make since to close plants when your opening new ones like the surry coal plant right by my house of all places. Good article with knowledge and facts but disappointing for those losing their jobs and a safe electric power sources even though it will help out the environment.

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