Sen. McConnell urges TVA to keep Paradise coal plant open

U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky met with Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) President and CEO William Johnson to urge TVA to maintain its current operations at the coal-fired Paradise plant in Drakesboro, Ky.

During the Oct. 23 meeting, McConnell said that with the upcoming retirement of Kentucky Utilities’ coal-fired Green River plant in 2016, coupled with a potential closure of Paradise, Muhlenberg County “just can’t take any more hits.”

Johnson responded that many factors have contributed to the TVA’s decision to review the future of the Paradise, citing one reason as the current regulatory environment, McConnell said in an Oct. 25 statement about the meeting. Johnson said he would take McConnell’s concerns into account while making any decisions with regards to the Paradise plant. 

Following the meeting, McConnell also sent a letter to Johnson reiterating his concerns and calling on TVA to keep the Paradise facility open. Joining McConnell on the letter were Sen. Rand Paul and also Reps. Ed Whitfield, Hal Rogers, Brett Guthrie, Andy Barr and Thomas Massie.

In the letter they wrote: “It has been brought to our attention that the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) is weighing several options that would alter future electricity generation at its Paradise Fossil Plant… As supporters of Kentucky coal and coal utilization, we urge the TVA to maintain its current operations at Paradise with the continued use of coal for electricity generation.”

The letter added: “We are well aware of the pressure that public utilities face from the Obama Administration to transition from using coal to alternative sources of energy. However, we would like to remind the TVA of the importance of maintaining an all-inclusive energy portfolio. To allow a historically abundant and proven resource, such as coal, to fall by the wayside would ultimately threaten our energy independence. Accordingly, we request the TVA maintain existing coal-fired operations—that utilize Kentucky-produced coal stocks—as your agency considers alternative sources in conjunction with coal for electricity generation.”

TVA said in its own statement about the meeting: “TVA is evaluating all options for the generating fleet. Our goal remains providing low-cost affordable, reliable power for Tennessee Valley ratepayers as decisions are made about plants. Paradise has been and will continue to be an important part of TVA’s service to the Tennessee Valley. TVA appreciates Senator McConnell’s support on behalf of the people who live and work near the Paradise plant.”

Green River at least getting a gas-fired replacement at the same site

Sister utilities Louisville Gas and Electric and Kentucky Utilities had some time ago announced they are retiring 800 MW of older coal generation — at the Cane Run, Green River and Tyrone stations in Kentucky. The utilities did recently announce that they plan to build a 700-MW, gas-fired plant on the Green River site, which would at least preserve jobs in this area.

The Green River plant’s startup date was 1950. Units 1 and 2 came online that year, while Units 3 and 4 were placed in operation in 1954 and 1959, respectively. The four units combined to produce 263 MW. Units 1 and 2 were retired in 2002, with the remaining two units having a total capacity of 163 MW. The station burns about 400,000 tons of western Kentucky coal each year. Muhlenberg County is in the heart of the western Kentucky coalfields.

As for Paradise, TVA was taking comment until Sept. 9 on a draft environmental assessment that covers new emissions controls – or unit retirements – to meet the federal Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) at this plant.

TVA’s proposed actions include installing new emission controls on Units 1 and 2 or replacing this coal-fired generation with a combined cycle /combustion turbine plant. Paradise Unit 3 meets the MATS mandates and requires no additional action.

The approximately 2,500 MW of capacity provided by Paradise is important in maintaining an adequate and reliable power supply to the north-central portion of TVA‘s service area. For PM controls, TVA is considering installing pulse jet fabric filter (PJFF) systems on Units 1 and 2.

Paradise Units 1 and 2 are coal-fired cyclone units with a rated capacity of 704 MW each. Unit 3, which is not in danger of being shut, provides a rated capacity of 1,150 MW. The units typically burn coals from nearby counties in western Kentucky and southern Illinois. Coal is transported to the plant by truck, rail, and barge. For rail delivery, a 2.2-mile-long railroad spur managed by CSX Transportation provides access to the plant. U.S. Energy Information Administration data shows that coal suppliers earlier this year were KenAmerican ResourcesArmstrong Coal and Alliance Coal.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.