New Natural Gas Plant in Tennessee Planned Despite Failing Environmental Laws

By: Stephanie Bontorin | Published: May 08, 2024

One of the United State’s largest utility companies has ignored warnings to build a new natural gas plant.

A new plant will be constructed in Tennesee despite warnings that the project’s environmental review does not comply with federal law.

New Gas Plant Will Replace Coal

In April, the Tennessee Valley Authority announced it would replace the Kingston Fossil Plant, an old coal-burning plant.

A view from under a bridge of a large coal powered plant emitting large plumes of smoke on a cloudy day

Source: nathanwarmes/X

Gas power will replace coal in a move of the board of directors to invest in renewable energy. However, the move might still have a negative impact on the environment.

Board of Directors Plans to Meet

The utility board of directors members will meet on Thursday of this week to discuss the issues surrounding the controversial changes.

A row of large white wind turbines in the middle of an empty desert on a nice day

Source: Rabih Shesha/Unsplash

Six of the nine board members were appointed by President Biden. Each seat comes with a five-year term, and each member had previously been selected by former President Trump. The new board is expected to follow Biden’s ongoing plans of securing a legacy of environmentalism. 

Issues With Coal in the Past

The Kensington plant was responsible for a massive ash spill in 2008. Following the environmental catastrophe, hundreds of workers who cleaned up the coal suffered from mild to fatal cases of brain, lung, blood, and skin cancer. 

A large power plant surrounded by a swampy muddle

Source: @coreycolquette/X

Coal and the byproduct that it makes, ash, is extremely carcinogenic and can cause rapid cancers to form when exposed.

Plans To Reduce Reliance on Coal

Due to the issues with harvesting and using coal, the world has been slowly fadings out its use.

A large coal plant with multiple stacks emitting large plumes of smoke

Part of the Tennessee Valley Authorities’ purpose is to create long-term plans to completely eliminate coal as a power source. Currently, the TVA provides power to around 10 million people across several southern states. 

Alternative Options for the New Power Plant

The group has come to the conclusion that there are two main options to replace the coal-burning power plant.

A coal plant with three stacks next to a large body of water with a shore and a small mountain

Source: Micheal Olsen/Unsplash

The options are a new 1,500-megawatt gas plant or 1,500 megawatts of solar combined with 2,200 megawatts of battery storage.


Pushback Reported From the Environmental Protection Agency

After the TVA announced the options for the new plant, the Environmental Protection Agency sent a letter of analysis, citing concerns about the new gas turbines that would be installed within the new gas plant.

a large stack of machinery at a gas powered plant

Source: Chad Peltola/Unsplash

The EPA also alleges that the TVA plans to eliminate the option of a solar-powered plant, citing an exorbitant amount of time spent constructing them. Although the TVA plans to have the new plant operational by 2027, no official order determines this timeline.


A New Gas Plant Would Not Meet Environmental Regulations

The EPA alleges that the new gas plant would not meet the National Environmental Policy Act requirements.

A rusted metal gas powered plant on a field of green grass

Source: Leslie Cross/Unsplash

The act mandates that all state authorities perform a necessary environmental impact report leading to a decision such as building a new power plant. 


Many Reasons to Switch to Renewable Enegry

Although the TVA has decided to proceed with their plans to construct a new gas plant, the reasons to switch to solar or other renewable energy power are undeniable.

Rows of large black solar power panels underneath a blue sky

In the letter the EPA sent to the Tennessee authorities, it cited the falling costs of solar power, billions of dollars of federal money for clean initiatives, and strict environmental regulations. In addition to these reasons, solar and wind power are constant and free, making them the freest and most abundant types of power. 


Solar Is Twice as Effective as Gas

In a statement to the press, Dennis Wamsted, an energy analyst at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, stated that the TVA could build a plant responsible for twice as much solar power as they need and twice as much battery storage as gas.

An aerial view of rows of black solar panels in a green field

Source: Raphael Cruz/Unsplash

The constantly rising price of natural gas worries more than just environmentalists. Solar power and other renewable energies will continue to become more affordable, while the price of natural gas is expected to continue rising.


Solar Is the Power of the Future

Other states are dropping the old energy creation methods like gas and coal to use more renewable sources.

Black solar panels in front of the skyline of a large city

Source: Jeroen Van de Water/Unsplash

By 2030, Florida expects 40% of its power generation to come from solar. Solar power is generated by the sun but banks extra energy in external batteries. Many people who use solar panels in their homes have power at all hours of the day and on cloudy days.


Wind Power Heating up in the U.S

Wind is a new commodity in the United States, along with solar power. Anyone who has driven around the desert in California will be familiar with the sight of large, white turbines.

Several white wind turbines on the side of a lush, green mountain

Source: Luo Lei/Unsplash

The Southwest Power Pool, which runs from Oklahoma to Canada, creates 60% to 70% of its power from wind.