Board representatives cited the advent of strict Washington regulations and slackening power demand as mandating the changes — and potential future reductions. This year, according to officials, coal represented 38% of the authority’s portfolio while natural gas comprised 8%.
Sen. Republican Leader Mitch McConnell intervened seeking continued operation of all three coal-burning units at Drakesboro, Ky.’s Paradise Fossil Plant by meeting municipal officials. But, although they previously approved upgrading the two oldest units with environmental controls, this week COO Chip Pardee recommended building a natural gas plant instead.
Meanwhile, the board also voted to close all five units at the Colbert plant in Tuscumbia, Ala., which has 150 employees, and one of two remaining units at the Widows Creek plant in Stevenson, also in Alabama with 175 employees.
While expressing relief the newer Paradise plant will remain in operation, McConnell blasted the Obama administration for the other closures. “I fought hard to prevent these changes and fortunately one of the units will continue to burn coal, saving hundreds of jobs,” he said in a statement quoted by The Associated Press following the vote.
Two other coal-fired units remain under evaluation — the Allen plant in Memphis and the Shawnee plant near Paducah, Ky., along with the Widows Creek facility.
The Tennessee Valley hasn’t abandoned coal entirely, though; the utility is spending about $1 billion to upgrade a coal-fired plant in Gallatin, Tenn., while other units remain open.