The Chattanooga Times Free Press reported yesterday that that the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) admits it will be “very difficult, if not impossible” to meet court-ordered pollution controls that would clean up four of its oldest coal-fired power plants in the eastern part of the TVA system.
The clean ups are a result of a 2006 lawsuit filed by the state of North Carolina arguing that emissions from TVA’s coal plants are a public nuisance for the state’s residents. U.S. District Court Judge Lacy Thornburg ordered TVA to install scrubbers that would limit emissions from Bull Run, Kingston, and John Sevier coal plants in East Tennessee and Widows Creek in Northeast Alabama.
Interestingly, the ruling may force TVA to have a public discussion about retiring some old coal plants. Widows Creek coal boiler units 1 – 6 are some of TVA’s oldest and least efficient coal units, coming online in 1952. This means that it takes more coal (measured in British Thermal Units (Btu)) to generate a unit of electricity (measured in kilowatt- hours). Simply stated: the less efficient the coal plant, the more coal mined, the more air pollution and more global warming pollution. Units 7 – 8 at Widows Creek have older scrubbers and are generally more efficient and will likely continue to operate.
The mandated December 2011 deadline is simply an aftereffect of TVA deliberately delaying the inevitable while crossing their fingers that Judge Thornburg would side against North Carolina in the lawsuit. Being held to an accelerated timeline is the price TVA will have to pay for their failure to invest in clean technology and install readily available pollution control technology. Click below to hear more of my thoughts. [podcast]http://media.timesfreepress.com/audio/2009/04/Stephen_Smith_0419.mp3[/podcast]