TVA CEO Talks New EPA Carbon Pollution Guidelines

Jun 2, 2014

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The Tennessee Valley Authority’s CEO says the power giant will study the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed new carbon dioxide pollution guidelines to see what impact they will have on its remaining coal-burning power plants.

TVA operates 11 power plants that are still at least partially coal-fired, including the Shawnee Fossil Plant near Paducah and the Paradise Fossil Plant in MuhlenbergCounty.

On a conference call Monday, CEO Bill Johnson said he had not read the full language of the Clean Power Plan proposal, but that it appears to be a continuation of what TVA has been heading toward for almost a decade.

“Starting in 2005 until today, we’ve had about a 30 percent reduction in CO2,” Johnson said. “In the current plan, by 2020 there would be a 40 percent reduction from 2005, and actually, by 2020 we would be about 50 percent below our peak CO2 emissions of 1995.”

The EPA’s new plan, implemented at the direction of President Barack Obama, projects a 30 percent nationwide decrease in power sector carbon emissions by 2030. That amount is equal to the emissions from powering more than half of the homes in the U.S. for one year.

Big Rivers Electric Corporation is another power provider in the region that will be affected by the EPA's proposed changes. Big Rivers communications director Marty Littrell said it could take up to two weeks to fully comprehend the impact of the 600-page plan, but he said that, preliminarily, it seems like it could impact electricity rates. Kentucky has some of the lowest power rates in the country.  Big Rivers provides power, 90 percent of which derived from coal, to 113,000 homes in 22 western Kentucky counties.

Another provider, the Prairie State Energy Campus,  issued a preliminary response today.

President Obama’s announcement today on the new carbon emissions regulation, as written by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has been highly anticipated by the  energy industry. The Prairie State Energy Campus, a technologically-advanced electric generation  facility, appreciates the opportunity to work with the U.S. EPA, and looks forward to an ongoing  discussion as the final standards are set in place. 

Prairie State is a stand-alone energy facility owned by six public power entities (including Paducah Power) two rural electric cooperatives and Peabody Energy. Prairie state supplies some 180  Midwestern communities, across seven different states with power. 

Though the new plan has ignited a war of words in Kentucky’s U.S. Senate race between Mitch McConnell and Alison Lundergan Grimes, Johnson says TVA won’t be politicizing the issue.

“We do not engage in the political aspects of this,” Johnson said. “We do comment and we comment on rules based on what it’s in the best interest of the 9 million people we serve in the valley, but we have not been and will not be part of the political debate about this.”

McConnell has called the plan “a dagger in the heart of the American middle class" and his campaign has tried to suggest that Democratic Secretary of State Grimes and the president are somehow in cahoots against Kentucky coal. Grimes, meanwhile, unveiled ads Monday that oppose the new EPA plan, saying “President Obama and Washington don’t get it."

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, also a Democrat, released a statement saying that the new regulations would "decimate" Kentucky's economy.

Johnson said the EPA will take comment on the proposed rule changes for "the next couple months" before being finalized.