Thursday, April 20, 2017

TVA says it won't reopen coal-fired power plants, but Trump could change the utility's board soon

Tennessee Valley Authority area
Bill Johnson, CEO of the Tennessee Valley Authority, the nation's biggest public utility, said Tuesday "that the agency isn't going to reopen coal-fired power plants under President Trump," Jonathan Mattise reports for The Associated Press. "TVA has said it's on track to cut its carbon emissions by 60 percent by 2020, compared with 2005 levels. By the end of 2018, the utility will have retired five of its original 11 coal-fired power plants."

TVA says on its website that it provides electricity for nine million customers in Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. Trump has promised to revive the coal industry.

Johnson said cheaper natural gas, not Obama administration regulations, is responsible for the downturn in coal, so retiring coal plants is the cheapest way to serve customers, Mattise reports. "Our statutory duty is to produce electricity at the lowest feasible rate. And when we decided to close the coal plants, that was the math we were doing. We weren't trying to comply with the Clean Power Plan or anything else," Johnson said. "What's the cheapest way to serve the customer? It turned out to be retiring those coal plants."

Mattise reports, "Johnson acknowledged that Trump could try to change the direction of the agency. By May, Trump can fill five of nine TVA board slots to establish a new majority." Those nominees would need to be confirmed by the Senate. Johnson said "TVA hasn't had direct discussions with the administration about the agency's direction or been invited to meet top administration officials yet."

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