Just one day after the Biden administration proposed its plans to limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, TVA announced their plans to build a new natural gas power plant to replace their Kingston coal-fired plant, the site of a massive coal ash spill in 2008. But now conservation groups have filed a lawsuit seeking to stop TVA from replacing the Kingston coal-fired plant with a natural gas-fired power plant.
The lawsuit claims TVA violated a requirement of federal agencies under the National Environmental Policy Act to give serious consideration to other alternatives. The challenge also argues that TVA did sufficiently consider the failures at certain coal and gas plants that led to rolling blackouts at Christmas time last year. They also did not appropriately account for renewable energy incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act.
Earlier this year, Appalachian Voices, the Center for Biological Diversity, and the Sierra Club challenged TVA’s decision to build a natural gas-fired power plant at their Cumberland Fossil Plant in Tennessee. The lawsuit contended that the power provider didn’t properly consider cleaner energy options or correctly factor in climate and economic impacts. The EPA also raised concerns that the utility’s analysis of alternative power sources was faulty, and the project was at odds with President Biden’s clean energy goals.
The Biden Administration has called for a carbon-pollution-free energy sector by 2035, but TVA said that goal cannot be achieved without technological breakthroughs in nuclear generation and energy storage. They do, however, plan to retire the first of two coal burning units at the Cumberland plant by the end of 2026 and expect to have the 1,450-megawatt gas plant up and running before then. TVA also plans to retire Cumberland’s second coal-burning unit by the end of 2028. It has proposed a plan to replace part of that lost production with a 900-megawatt gas plant in Cheatham County, Tennessee, along with a 400-megawatt battery storage system.
TVA said the new gas plants will provide the flexibility needed to add 10,000 megawatts of solar to its overall system by 2035 and still meet peak demand periods. TVA’s energy mix includes 43% nuclear, 26% natural gas, 13% coal, 14% hydroelectric and 4% of other types of renewables, such as solar, according to a May filing with the Securities Exchange Commission.