Press Release

Tennessee Valley Authority CEO wants another gas plant after fossil fuel failures during winter storm

Widespread blackouts and gas unreliability speak to need for urgent investment in renewable power

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 10, 2023

CONTACT
Ricky Junquera, Clean Up TVA Coalition, team@cleanuptva.org

WASHINGTON — The Tennessee Valley Authority made a final decision today on the retirement and replacement of the Cumberland Fossil Plant, electing to move forward with a new 1,450 megawatt gas plant and 32-mile pipeline. This decision comes soon after TVA ordered rolling blackouts for millions of customers when several coal and gas plants went offline during the record-breaking winter storm Elliot.

The federal utility’s environmental review for the Cumberland Plant has attracted significant attention, with concerns raised in comments by the Environmental Protection Agency, environmental organizations, local power companies, elected officials and over a thousand private citizens. The EPA recommended TVA re-analyze the climate impacts of the project and consider other alternatives, such as distributed energy. In response, over 100 organizations recently urged the Biden Administration to intervene in TVA’s decision to replace the Cumberland plant with a new gas plant.

“After the recent winter storm, we are in need of strong and bold leadership from the TVA,” said Majeed Peffley, a volunteer for Sunrise Nashville. “Instead they are turning to fossil fuels that will need to be retired early, and fail in extreme weather. This saddles TVA rate payers with reliability issues and unnecessary costs that would have otherwise been avoidable had the TVA looked at more distributed solar options. This is a leadership mistake and needs to be reviewed by the newly appointed board.”

“TVA’s gas plants failed miserably during the December storm, and now its CEO is making the grave mistake of doubling down on fossil fuels,” said Gaby Sarri-Tobar, a campaigner at the Center for Biological Diversity’s energy justice program. “Thousands of families suffered without life-saving heat and electricity because our country’s largest federal utility is dependent on fossil fuels when it should be leading the transition to 100% renewable energy. TVA’s 10 million customers deserve an energy system that stands up against these devastating climate and energy crises, and it’s time for the new board to lead that change.”

Just a couple weeks ago, the U.S. Senate confirmed six new board members to the federal agency’s nine-member board of directors, its sole regulatory body. The board members have historically approved new energy projects, but last year delegated that authority to CEO & President Jeff Lyash while new board members were waiting to be confirmed. Last week, the Clean Up TVA Coalition urged the new board to delay a final decision on the Cumberland plant’s replacement until they have thoroughly investigated the cause of coal and gas plant failures during winter storm Elliot and the role renewable energy alternatives, instead of more gas development, could play in mitigating such disasters. The coalition also urged the board and CEO to prioritize energy efficiency, demand response, and distributed energy resources in future energy planning.

“TVA was unprepared for the storm, even though the TVA Board commented last May that extreme weather events are no longer anomalies and so urged for examination of their own system resiliency,” said JoAnn McIntosh, volunteer with Sierra Club. “The proposed gas build-out at Cumberland near my home is yet another example that TVA has not connected the dots between the negative impact of their own fossil fuels emissions on their ability to serve Tennessee residents.”

“This is a reckless decision that will have devastating impacts on our region,” said Bri Knisley, Tennessee campaign manager for Appalachian Voices. “Families in the Tennessee Valley just suffered a summer of substantially higher electricity bills that were a direct result of TVA’s increased gas costs. This Christmas, households lost electricity because TVA’s gas and coal plants couldn’t produce. Who is holding TVA accountable?”

The Clean Up TVA coalition also launched three billboards in Chattanooga and Knoxville, Tennessee. The billboards read: “Blackouts. TVA Fossil Plants Failed. Time for Something New” and direct to an action page encouraging the public to urge TVA board members and CEO Lyash to invest in renewable energy instead of fossil fuels at the Cumberland site.

Energy Information Administration data shows solar energy helped prevent more serious power outages over the holidays. TVA currently produces less than 3% of its energy from wind and solar.

TVA is a federally owned corporation that generates electricity for nearly 10 million customers in Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia.

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The Clean Up TVA coalition is committed to transforming TVA into a green utility by shutting down coal plants, preventing new fossil gas development, and accelerating a just transition to fossil fuel-free, distributed renewable, affordable and democratic energy for all communities and workers in the Tennessee Valley.

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