Brushing aside pleas from coal-friendly politicians, Tennessee Valley Authority’s board voted Thursday to retire a 49-year-old coal-fired power plant in Kentucky. President Donald Trump and the state’s top elected officials had fought to keep it open, even though TVA concluded it would be too expensive to do so.
At its meeting Thursday, the TVA board voted to retire both Kentucky’s Paradise coal-fired power plant and the Bull Run coal plant near Knoxville, Tennessee. The utility’s president and chief executive Bill Johnson said both decisions needed to be based on facts informed by a thorough review.
In the past week, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin and Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had argued in media postings and at a rally that burning coal at the Paradise power plant was essential to their state’s economy and to national security. Trump weighed in on Twitter, saying “coal is an important part of our electricity generation mix.”
The presidential tweet thrust the TVA, a federally owned power provider that serves 10 million people in seven Southeastern states, into the national spotlight.
“Let me tell you what this decision is not about—it’s not about coal,” Johnson told the board. “This decision is about economics.”
Both plants have outlived their design life by about a decade and are only able to operate about 10 percent of the time, he said.
TVA Chief Financial Officer John M. Thomas III said closing both plants would save $1.3 billion in costs for needed upgrades.
The board’s resolution calls for the Paradise plant to close by the end of 2020, and Bull Run to shut down by the end of 2023. Johnson said TVA would consider selling its Paradise coal unit to another utility if there was interest.
James Bruggers covers the U.S. Southeast, part of ICN’s National Environment Reporting Network.