EDITORIAL: Reducing pollution

The Tennessee Valley Authority’s decision to close nine of its oldest coal-fired generating units from 2011 through 2015 provides additional substance to the federal power producer’s commitment to cleaner air and water in its seven-state region.
TVA’s decision is both environmental and financial. The plants to be idled must be retrofitted with scrubbing equipment to clean emissions were they to continue in service, and that would be expensive. Last month, a federal appeals court ruled against TVA in a lawsuit brought by the state of North Carolina over pollution from coal-fired plants in Tennessee and Alabama.
The closures will reduce TVA’s coal burn by about 3 percent; it buys about 42 million tons of coal every year from American sources.
The authority, which generates Northeast Mississippi’s electricity, will replace the 1,000 megawatts it’s losing with power generated by gas, biomass and nuclear plants.
TVA’s decision was lauded by many environmentalists, but the authority will retain 50 coal-fired generating units, a necessity to meet power demands.
Since last summer, Xcel, Progress Energy Carolinas, and the Intermountain Power Agency have opted to shut down existing coal-fired units or scuttle plans for additional coal-fired capacity.
TVA, despite progress in increasing its nuclear generation capacity, encountered problems this year because the Tennessee River has been too warm to properly cool the Browns Ferry Nuclear Power Plant in northern Alabama. TVA lost about $50 million in power sales because of the water issue, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported.
All issues considered, TVA is moving in the right direction by reducing reliance on coal-fired plants. TVA CEO Tom Kilgore announced the closings at a meeting of the utility’s board of directors Aug. 20.
The authority’s 11 coal-fired plants produce more than half the electricity sold to TVA’s 9 million customers. Units to be idled are at the John Sevier plant in Rogersville, Tenn., Widows Creek in Alabama, and Shawnee, which is near Paducah, Ky.
TVA is doing the right thing for the environment, the region and the nation.
As a federal agency TVA of international stature it is the ideal organization to lead the way on substantial scale away from old methods to cleaner energy. TVA has spent $5.3 billion on environmental upgrades. Getting rid of the problem is cheaper way of dealing with it.

NEMS Daily Journal