Southeastern U.S. Takes Huge Step to Slash Air Pollution Thanks to Pressure from Environmental Groups, State and Federal Officials
CHATTANOOGA, TENN. – The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) board of directors approved a landmark agreement today with three citizen groups, four states and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), marking one of the largest pollution reduction agreements in the nation’s history. This agreement requires TVA to phase out 18 units at dirty, coal-fired power plants and install modern pollution controls on three dozen additional units, thanks to more than 11 years of pressure from environmental groups, Southeastern states and the EPA. The blockbuster agreement – which includes the affected states of Alabama, Kentucky, North Carolina and Tennessee – represents the largest ever reduction in air pollution in the Southeastern United States. This agreement permanently retires an unprecedented 2,700 megawatts of dirty coal-fired electricity and will drastically reduce TVA’s emissions of dangerous sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, mercury and carbon pollution. Clean Air Task Force estimates that coal-fired power plants in the region cause more than 1,800 premature deaths and more than 2,400 heart attacks each year in the four-state region, and are a major source of area air pollution woes.
TVA’s coal plants are also responsible for visibility problems and acid rain damage in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the country’s most visited national park.
“For decades, the Smoky Mountains has suffered from a slow motion crisis,” said Don Barger, senior regional director for the National Parks Conservation Association. “Air pollution from TVA’s coal-fired power plants has degraded scenic vistas, damaged plant species, and impaired human health. Today’s settlement halts that trend and sends us in the right direction.”
The settlement, approved today in conjunction with TVA charting out a new course as laid out in its new 10-year Resource Plan, represents a welcome change in focus for the federally owned utility. Under the agreement, TVA will modernize its aging infrastructure, invest in clean energy and slash its pollution.
Specifically the settlement agreement requires TVA to reduce pollution at its 59 coal-fired power generating units, phasing out 18 of those units no later than 2018. This phase-out represents a major victory for clean air and public health, with 10 units at TVA’s Johnsonville Plant in middle Tennessee to be taken offline, along with two units at the John Sevier Fossil Plant in eastern Tennessee and six units at the Widows Creek Fossil Plant in northern Alabama. The John Sevier Fossil Plant and Widows Creek Fossil Plant are some of the oldest units in the TVA system, dating back to the early 1950’s, and have never upgraded with modern pollution controls.
In addition, the agreement also requires TVA to invest $350 million in the four states of Alabama, Kentucky, North Carolina and Tennessee on additional air pollution-reduction projects over the next five years, including funds to help consumers and business cut their energy bills, support local businesses that are creating jobs in local clean energy projects and cut carbon pollution.
“There is a demonstrated link between pollution and asthma in children,” said Tiffany Schauer, Executive Director of Our Children’s Earth Foundation. “Thanks to today’s action, every family in Alabama, Kentucky, North Carolina and Tennessee can breathe a little easier.”
This agreement resolves a series of legal challenges against TVA brought by the environmental groups and the four states. The legal actions stemmed from allegations that TVA had unlawfully extended the life of its coal plants without installing modern pollution controls, otherwise known as the New Source Review program.
“Today’s landmark agreement is a game changer for how we power our homes and businesses in the Southeast, said Mary Anne Hitt, Director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign.” By phasing out the most dangerous coal plants and charting a course focused on less pollution and more clean energy, TVA is demonstrating that we don’t have to choose between clean air and affordable energy – we can and must have both.“
The plaintiff groups – National Parks Conservation Association, Our Children’s Earth Foundation and the Sierra Club – are represented by George Hays, William Moore, Wade Davies, Reed Zars, and Mike Costa.
For a copy of the settlement agreement please contact Oliver.Bernstein@sierraclub.org.
About National Parks Conservation Association
Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than one million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.
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