President Donald J. Trump is lobbying a federally owned entity to keep a Kentucky coal-fired power plant operating.
The Tennessee Valley Authority “should give serious consideration to all factors before voting to close viable power plants, like Paradise #3 in Kentucky!” Trump said in a tweet Monday. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, also weighed in on Twitter: “Coal has helped fuel our country’s greatness & it needs to be part of our energy future.”
Trump has been very vocal about wanting to keep coal plants operating and the governor has also weighed in on the fate of the Paradise plant. But even though the TVA is a federal government agency rather than an investor-owned utility, their ability to sway the board may be limited. That’s because the agency doesn’t receive any taxpayer money and has to make its revenue through sales of electricity, just like a private generator.
“We certainly will listen to the governor. We certainly will listen to the president,” said Jim Hopson, a public information officer with TVA. But their opinions will be weighed alongside other voices, including people who are urging that the facility be shuttered, he said. “We have to look at what’s in the best interest of everyone.”
During an open-comment period, local residents sent more than 1,650 letters opposing the plant closure, citing worries about what it would do to the county’s economy. Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin called on TVA to keep the plant operating and workers and residents held a rally over the weekend, according to a story posted on local news station WBKO’s website.
TVA shut two of the units at its Paradise power plant in Muhlenberg County in 2017, after 54 years of operation, replacing them with natural gas fired generation. The third, with a capacity of 1,150 megawatts, began operating in 1970, according to its website. TVA issued a notice Monday stating that closing Unit 3 was its preferred alternative.
TVA cited flat demand for power coupled with higher costs of operating coal facilities in its decision making.
TVA’s board is set to discuss the fate of the plant at a Feb. 14 meeting, Hopson said. When TVA has decided in the past to shutter power facilities, it has typically taken one to three years. Representatives for the governor didn’t respond to emails seeking a response.
Kentucky was the fifth-largest U.S. coal producing state in 2017, the last year for which annual data is available, according to the Energy Information Administration. The state has more coal mines than any other except Pennsylvania. It also depends on coal for 79 percent of its power.
The TVA, which serves 10 million people in seven southeastern states, is the largest government-owned power company. It was formed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to help electrify rural parts of the South during the Great Depression.