Kentucky coal group takes its Paradise loss to a federal appeals court

The Kentucky Coal Association on March 4 filed a brief notice of appeal at the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals of a lower court decision affirming the Tennessee Valley Authority‘s decision to later this decade shut two of the three coal units at the Paradise power plant in western Kentucky and replace them with new on-site gas-fired capacity.

The association said in the notice, which was filed ahead of a later full brief, that TVA violated the National Energy Policy Act by doing a simple environmental assessment (EA), not a full environmental impact statement, prior to the shutdown decision. KCA also said the federal utility failed to abide by the least-cost planning process in making this decision. TVA won’t be filing a response to the appeal until after KCA files it full opening statement.

Saying that the TVA properly followed its environmental review procedures in deciding to shut two of three coal units at the Paradise power plant and build a gas-fired replacement, a federal judge on Feb. 3 dismissed this July 2014 lawsuit. The Feb. 3 order was by Judge Joseph McKinley Jr. out of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky. This suit was over TVA’s November 2013 decision to retire Paradise Units 1 and 2 and to construct a new gas-powered facility and accompanying gas transport infrastructure.

Said the Feb. 3 ruling: “Despite Plaintiffs’ differing calculations, the EA specifically analyzed how much generation TVA needed if it retired Paradise Units 1 and 2 based on net dependable capacity, as opposed to nameplate capacity as advocated by Plaintiffs. TVA determined that 800 MW of generation was needed. The record reflects that the net dependable capacity of the gas-fueled plant is approximately 1,025 MW; therefore, under TVA’s calculations, no shortfall is expected. Further, while reaching a different result than Plaintiffs’ experts, TVA considered power generation shifts and determined that gas generation is suited to meet ‘swing’ energy needs because it can easily provide more or less power as needed. In contrast, the coal-fired units cannot easily adapt to energy-use fluctuations. TVA’s determination regarding the amount of generation needed is not arbitrary or capricious.”

Upon the completion of the new 1,085-MW natural gas-fired facility at the Paradise site, coal-fired Units 1 and 2 with a summer net capability of 1,230 MW will be retired. The Paradise plant is in the heart of the western Kentucky coalfields and the shutdown of these two units will have a big impact on coal production there. U.S. Energy Information Administration data shows that coal suppliers to the plant in 2014 included: the Paradise #9 mine in western Kentucky of KenAmerican Resources; the Elk Creek and Onton #9 mines in western Kentucky, and the Pattiki mine in Illinois, of Alliance Coal; and the Parkway and Kronos mines in western Kentucky of Armstrong 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.