Good news for air breathers: Tennessee Valley Authority to 'phase out' 18 coal plants

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The TVA's Kingston Plan (background); the one whose coal ash sludge created such a stir a couple Christmases ago.
  • The TVA's Kingston Plan (background); the one whose coal ash sludge created such a stir a couple Christmases ago.

The Tennessee Valley Authority has decided to "phase out" 18 coal plants by 2020. Sure, that's good news for Tennessean air breathers, but, you may wonder, what does that have to do with Charlotte's air? Well, last time we checked Mother Nature — as moody as she is — doesn't recognize arbitrary and invisible boundaries like state lines. Therefore, the quality of the air above our neighboring states directly impacts the quality of the air over our state, the air we breathe.

So, the TVA's announcement is a huge win for loads of air breathers, including us.

But, that's not all: The TVA has agreed to pay millions of dollars in fines for their Clean Air Act violations.

Here's more from The Christian Science Monitor:

The Tennessee Valley Authority, one of America's largest utilities, said Thursday it plans to close 18 older coal-fired power generators at three plants as part of a court settlement in which it will pay $10 million in fines for violations of the federal Clean Air Act.

When completed, the shutdowns will be one of the largest single closures of coal-fired units since the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began, in the 1990s, to require emissions controls on older plants, observers say. The plan also marks a shift toward cleaner forms of energy, company officials said.

As it phases out the coal generators by 2020, TVA will replace them with modern natural-gas and biomass-fired power plants, cutting emissions of smog and acid-rain forming gases and slashing greenhouse-gas emissions. The company also will pay to improve energy efficiency across the region.

Read the rest of this article, by Mark Clayton, here.

The EPA outlines some more of the benefits in its press release:

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.

Communities near TVA’s facilities will directly benefit from $350 million in environmental projects designed to reduce harmful air pollution and promote energy efficiency. These investments will advance environmental justice by reducing pollution in overburdened communities and reducing energy costs for low-income communities. TVA is required to spend $240 million on energy efficiency initiatives including a Smart Energy Communities project that will focus on energy efficiency in low-income communities.  TVA will retrofit low-income housing with the most cost-effective energy efficiency technologies – reducing air pollution, energy use and saving residents money.   TVA will also spend $40 million to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through renewable projects such as hybrid electric charging stations and $8 million for a clean diesel and electric vehicle project for public transportation systems.

TVA will also provide $1 million to the National Park Service and the National Forest Service to improve, protect, or rehabilitate forest and park lands that have been impacted by emissions from TVA’s plants, including Mammoth Cave National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The settlement also requires TVA to pay a civil penalty of $10 million, with Alabama and Kentucky receiving $500,000 each and Tennessee receiving $1 million.  The states of Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina, and three non-governmental organizations, the National Parks Conservation Association, Sierra Club, and Our Children’s Earth Foundation, have been involved in development of this settlement and are signatories to a companion consent decree that will be lodged in federal district court in the Eastern District of Tennessee.

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