Frankfort, Ky. — A federal utility board voted Thursday to close a coal-fired power plant in Kentucky, rejecting pleas from President Donald Trump and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and handing the coal industry a defeat in its backyard.
The Tennessee Valley Authority voted to retire the remaining coal-fired unit by December 2020 at the Paradise Fossil Plant along the Green River in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky. The decision could put 131 people out of work and will affect an additional 135 people who work in nearby coal mines that supply the plant, including one owned by a major Trump campaign donor.
The board also voted to close the Bull Run Fossil Plant near Oak Ridge, Tennessee, by December 2023.
“It is not about coal. This decision is about economics,” TVA CEO Bill Johnson said. “It’s about keeping rates as low as feasible.”
The decision continues the TVA’s trend of retiring its aging coal-fired power plants in favor of cheaper and cleaner energy sources, including natural gas. In December, amid heavy rains and several plant outages, the TVA supplied more power from hydroelectricity and renewables than coal for the first time since the 1950s.
The shift has frustrated political leaders in Kentucky, including McConnell.
“We hoped the TVA would listen and be on our side, but instead, they rejected coal … and ignored the impact this decision will have on hundreds of hard-working Kentuckians and their families,” McConnell said.
At one time, Muhlenberg County was the nation’s top coal producer, inspiring folk singer John Prine to pen his 1971 standard “Paradise.” But since then, the coal industry has declined as energy companies look for more efficient ways to produce power.