The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Nov. 17 issued an environmental assessment (EA) on a gas pipeline lateral that Texas Gas Transmission LLC wants to build to serve a gas-fired combined-cycle plant that the Tennessee Valley Authority is building to replace two of the three coal units at the Paradise power plant in western Kentucky.
On March 4, Texas Gas filed an application with the commission for authorization to construct and operate certain natural gas pipeline facilities in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky, to deliver gas to the Paradise Fossil Plant. Texas Gas’ application states that the purpose of the Western Kentucky Lateral Project is to provide 230,000 million British thermal units per day to the Paradise plant. This natural gas would be used to fuel a new combined-cycle unit that would replace two coal-fired units.
The EA noted that FERC received an intervention request and comments from the Kentucky Coal Association, requesting that FERC consider the direct and indirect effects of the Paradise fuel transition project. Said the EA: “Kentucky Coal Association states the analysis should include the socioeconomic impacts of the TVA’s project on coal miners and loss of coal production revenue in Kentucky. In addition, Kentucky Coal Association comments that FERC’s consideration of alternatives should include the potential elimination of the regulatory drivers for the proposed project, citing legal challenges to the Clean Air Act and the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards regulations.
“The fuel transition project at the TVA Power Plant, called the TVA Paradise Combined-Cycle Project, is not within the FERC’s jurisdiction. TVA issued the Paradise Fossil Plant Units 1 and 2 Mercury and Air Toxics Standards Compliance Project EA in November 2013, which discussed the direct and indirect impacts of the TVA Paradise Combined-Cycle Project, including socioeconomic impacts. TVA also issued the Finding of No Significant Impact, which took into account comments received during the public comment period. TVA received all necessary permits and federal authorizations for construction of the TVA Paradise Combined-Cycle Project, which began in February 2015. It is expected to go online in the spring/summer of 2017. The TVA Power Plant units 1 and 2 will continue to burn coal until the gas plant is in service.”
The Texas Gas project would include:
- 22.5 miles of 24-inch-diameter natural gas pipeline lateral;
- two new meter and regulation stations (M&R Station);
- pig launcher and receiver facilities at each end of the pipeline; and
- one mainline valve.
Construction of the lateral is expected to begin in February 2016, pending receipt of all necessary authorizations and permit approvals, and be completed by September 2016.
The EA said the lateral will cross 29 coal seams. An additional 24 coal seams are not crossed by the construction right-of-way, and range from 50 feet to 1,300 feet away from the temporary right-of-way. “Construction of the project may limit future exploitation of these resources, but only in the immediate vicinity of the project,” said the EA. “In areas where the Texas Gas pipeline would parallel existing rights-of-way, those rights-of-way already prohibit or limit the exploitation of these mineral resources. Therefore, we conclude that the project would not have a significant impact on geological resources.”
Kentucky coal group loses recent appeals court decision
A three-judge panel at the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals on Oct. 23 rejected the appeal by the Kentucky Coal Association of TVA’s decision to shut later this decade two of three coal-fired units at the Paradise power plant and replace them with the new gas-fired combined-cycle capacity built at the same site. The panel noted that any judicial power to halt such a project arises only if the TVA acted arbitrarily and capriciously in making its decision. “Because that was not the case, any problems from the conversion are not ours to fix,” the judges ruled. “We affirm.”
Upon the completion by TVA of a 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 coal-fired Unit 3 would be the only coal unit at the site to remain in operation.
The court ruling noted: “The Kentucky Coal Association, as its name hints, was not a fan of this decision. Neither were local businesses and landowners. Together, the three groups sued to halt the project, alleging that the TVA exceeded its authority in making the decision. The district court denied the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction, and granted the TVA’s motion for judgment on the administrative record. The plaintiffs appealed.”
On the subject of local enconomic impacts, the National Environmental Policy Act is not a national employment act, and its environmental goals and policies were never intended to deal with social problems such as those presented here, the court said. “The TVA at any rate did consider these and other socioeconomic effects and concluded that, while some negative effects may result (such as a 2% reduction in the county’s workforce), they would not significantly affect the human environment,” the judges wrote. “That decision was reasonable in light of the regulations and our precedent.”
The decision added: “Finally, plaintiffs argue that the retrofitting option would have been a much better policy choice, as it would save money, help the environment, and support the local economy. Maybe; maybe not.” The court said that such an analysis is not relevant in this case.
The Paradise Fossil Plant is located next to the Green River in Drakesboro, Ky. It consists of three cyclone furnace coal-fired boilers (Units 1-3), three distillate oil-fired heating boilers, eleven distillate oil-fired space heaters, three natural-draft cooling towers, and solid fuel, limestone, ash, and gypsum handling processes.
- Units 1 and 2 are identical cyclonic steam boilers, each with a maximum capacity of 6,959 MMBtu/hr and a nameplate capacity of 704 MW.
- Unit 3 (the one that will survive the shutdowns) is a cyclonic steam generating boiler with a maximum capacity of 11,457 MMBtu/hr. The nameplate capacity is 1,150 MW.