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TVA's Plans to Replace Largest Coal Plant With Dirty Gas Meet Opposition

U.S. Senate urged to confirm climate champions for TVA board seats.
WASHINGTON -

The Center for Biological Diversity urged the Tennessee Valley Authority today to replace its largest coal plant with renewable energy sources that will protect the climate and public health. Today’s public scoping comments from the Center oppose the federal agency’s current plans to replace the Cumberland Fossil Plant near Clarksville, Tennessee, with polluting fossil gas.

The TVA’s Cumberland proposals come even as President Joe Biden has nominated four new people to the agency’s board of directors. The nominees would change the board’s composition because they could champion renewable energy development over fracked gas as the TVA works to retire its remaining coal plants.

The Center has called on the U.S. Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee to set a hearing date to confirm the four TVA board candidates.

“The Cumberland decision highlights the polluting consequences of not quickly confirming these four nominees to lead the country’s largest public power provider,” said Gaby Sarri-Tobar, a campaigner in the Center’s Energy Justice program. “The clock is ticking, and it’s urgent for this Senate committee to set a hearing before the summer recess. With decisions like how to replace TVA’s largest coal plant on the line, it’s imperative for Senate to confirm candidates who will prioritize climate, justice and a 100% renewable energy transition at TVA.”

Two of the three alternatives TVA has identified to date would replace Cumberland with fracked gas plants. The Center is therefore calling for an additional alternative that prioritizes distributed renewable energy and storage. The current TVA proposal also anticipates continuing to burn highly polluting coal at Cumberland until 2033 despite an urgent call from President Biden to transform the U.S. electricity sector to be carbon-free by 2035. The Center is also urging TVA to expedite Cumberland’s complete retirement to earlier than 2030.

President Biden nominated Beth Geer, Robert Klein, Kimberly Lewis and Michelle Moore to the TVA board in April. The four nominees bring experience in community-based solar projects, renewable energy and labor to a board on which fossil fuel and corporate interests have been over-represented. The board will make critical decisions on TVA’s energy trajectory for the next two decades, including where priority is placed in renewable energy development.

Last month TVA CEO and President Jeff J. Lyash said he plans to decarbonize the TVA by 2050, but he did not explain how the agency would achieve that nonbinding goal. Like other major utilities, the TVA still depends heavily on fossil fuels. Even with Lyash’s new goal, the utility plans to continue to build new fracked gas plants, relying on false solutions that will worsen climate injustice in the Tennessee Valley.

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At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature — to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters and climate that species need to survive. 

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