TVA Will Spend $5B to Clean Up Coal Plants, Invest in Renewable Energy

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) will invest between $3 and $5 billion on new and upgraded pollution controls to resolve alleged Clean Air Act violations at 11 of its coal-fired plants in Alabama, Kentucky, and Tennessee, the EPA announced.

The new equipment is expected to prevent approximately 1,200 to 3,000 premature deaths, 2,000 heart attacks and 21,000 cases of asthma attacks each year, resulting in up to $27 billion in annual health benefits.

TVA also will retire 18 older coal-fired units at three power plants, totaling 2,700 megawatts, starting next year, TVA said in a release. TVA operates about 17,000 MW of coal-fired generation. 

TVA will also invest $350 million on clean energy projects as part of the resolution. TVA is required to spend $240 million on energy efficiency initiatives including a Smart Energy Communities project that will focus on energy efficiency in low-income communities. TVA will retrofit low-income housing with the most cost-effective energy efficiency technologies–reducing air pollution, energy use and saving residents money. TVA will also spend $40 million to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through renewable projects such as hybrid electric charging stations and $8 million for a clean diesel and electric vehicle project for public transportation systems.

"Investments in pollution control equipment will keep hundreds of thousands of tons of harmful pollutants out of the air we breathe, and help create green jobs opportunities that will reduce pollution and improve energy efficiency," said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson.

Once fully implemented, the pollution controls and other required actions will address 92% of TVA’s coal-fired power plant capacity, reducing emissions of nitrogen oxide (NOx) by 69% and sulfur dioxide (SO2) by 67% from TVA’s 2008 emissions levels. The settlement will also significantly reduce particulate matter and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, EPA said.

TVA will also provide $1 million to the National Park Service and the National Forest Service to improve, protect, or rehabilitate forest and park lands that have been impacted by emissions from TVA’s plants, including Mammoth Cave National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

TVA is an independent, corporate agency of the United States created as part of the Tennessee Valley Authority Act of 1933, and is headquartered in Knoxville, Tenn. TVA operates 59 coal-fired boilers at 11 plants in Alabama, Kentucky, and Tennessee and operates other energy production facilities, including hydroelectric plants. TVA also provides wholesale power to 155 municipal and cooperative power distributors and direct service to 56 large industrial and government customers, supplying power to approximately nine million people across Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee, and small portions of Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia.

The settlement also requires TVA to pay a civil penalty of $10 million, with Alabama and Kentucky receiving $500,000 each and Tennessee receiving $1 million. The states of Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina, and three non-governmental organizations, the National Parks Conservation Association, Sierra Club, and Our Children’s Earth Foundation, have been involved in development of this settlement and are signatories to a companion consent decree that will be lodged in federal district court in the Eastern District of Tennessee.

Environmentalists praised the settlement. "The days of old, uncontrolled coal plants are coming to a close," said Bruce Nilles of the Sierra Club. "We are going to see a significant reduction in the amount of coal being burned."

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