coal-fired power plants

Still from White House video

President Donald Trump told the Department of Energy to “prepare immediate steps” to stop the closures of coal and nuclear power plants in the Ohio Valley region that are no longer economical to operate.

But a number of energy analysts say the administration’s unprecedented effort to prop up struggling utilities will do little to solve their underlying problems and will likely end up costing consumers more.  

Owensboro Municipal Utilities

Owensboro Municipal Utilities is switching to a different source of energy after more than 100 years of burning coal.

There’s a lot of talk - and hope - among some Kentucky residents that coal will make a comeback. But Owensboro Municipal Utilities says it’s seen the writing on the wall and coal will be completely phased over the next six years. 

Sonya Dixon is a spokeswoman for OMU.

“This is a monumental change in the way that OMU has done business. You know, we have burned coal for the last 117 years and obviously, this is a shift, but we feel it’s a positive one in the best interest of our customers.” 

Considering All the Health Effects of Retrofitting or Retiring a Paducah Plant

Oct 7, 2014
Erica Peterson

A new analysis from an environmental group takes a deep look at the potential health consequences of either retrofitting or retiring a Western Kentucky power plant.

The Shawnee Fossil Plant is near Paducah, on the Ohio River. It’s a coal-fired power plant operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority. Right now, TVA is preparing to retrofit the plant with pollution controls so it can keep burning coal and comply with federal air pollution regulations. But in a draft document that will be finalized later this year, the company said it was evaluating the future of the Shawnee plant.

And those two possible scenarios made Shawnee an attractive candidate for a Health Impact Assessment, said Deborah Payne of the Kentucky Environmental Foundation.

“The intent of this project is to look at how health can be impacted either if they retrofit the plant and continue operation or if they retire the plant and close down, and the health impacts associated with that,” she said.

Chris Morris/Flickr Account

The Kentucky Public Service Commission has signed off on a plan that lets Kentucky Power convert part of its Big Sandy power plant to natural gas.

The power plant in Eastern Kentucky has burned coal for half a century. But it’s facing new regulations on mercury and other toxic emissions, and Kentucky Power determined installing updated pollution controls would be too expensive.

Converting the smaller of Big Sandy’s two units to natural gas will cost an estimated $50 million, which will be passed on to ratepayers. The move will also keep part of the power plant open, and retain some jobs in the region. Last year, regulators approved a plan to shut down the plant’s larger unit and replace it with electricity generated at a coal-fired power plant in West Virginia.

Tennessee Valley Authority

The U.S. Supreme Court is upholding the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate coal pollution that crosses state lines.

Tuesday’s 6-2 decision is being called a major victory for the Obama administration’s environmental agenda, and will likely have a major impact on coal-fired power plants in Kentucky and other states.

The White House has put forth a set of new Clean Air Act regulations aimed at cutting pollution coming from coal-fired power plants. Coal industry advocates and many Republican lawmakers—including Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell—have sharply criticized those regulations, describing them as government overreach and a “war on coal.”

The EPA is expected to unveil new climate control regulations in June to cut down on carbon pollution from coal plants. Kentucky gets an estimated 90 percent of its electricity from coal-fired plants, such as the Paradise Fossil Plant in Muhlenberg County.

Many power suppliers have been anticipating increased scrutiny of coal pollution, and have been implemented changes at their plants to make their coal-fired operations more environmentally-friendly.

Tennessee Valley Authority spokesman Scott Brooks told WKU Public Radio that Tuesday's Supreme Court decision has "no impact" on the utility's plans for the Paradise plant.

A new report says Kentucky is the worst state in the nation when it comes to toxic air pollution from coal-fired power plants. The analysis was released Thursday by the Natural Resources Defense Council and looked at emissions from power plants in 2010, the most recent data available.