Gas Buildout in Tennessee

Under TVA’s plan, smokestacks at the Cumberland Fossil Plant would continue to spew pollution into the air. Photo by Angie Mummaw
Under TVA’s plan, smokestacks at the Cumberland Fossil Plant would continue to spew pollution into the air. Photo by Angie Mummaw

Two proposed projects in Tennessee would replace coal-fired power plants with fracked methane gas and add nearly 160 miles of pipelines to the state, despite increasing calls for energy choices that would combat the climate crisis.

The Tennessee Valley Authority, the nation’s largest federally owned electric utility, currently has the second largest methane gas buildout of any utility in the country at 5,000 megawatts. Methane gas derived from hydraulic fracking is 80 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide over a 20 year period.

In addition to contamination and health impact concerns, increasing reliance on fracked gas could further increase the energy burden on low-income residents throughout the Tennessee Valley. TVA has already increased electricity bills significantly this year — that trend would continue if the gas buildout is approved, leaving communities burdened with increased pollution, fewer jobs and higher electric bills.

Even the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has raised serious concerns about TVA’s proposal.

Cumberland Project

When plans for MVP were announced in 2014, residents along the route swiftly organized, educating themselves on potential impacts and sharing information with each other. They set up meetings and formed community-led groups, like the Protect Our Water, Heritage, Rights Coalition and Mountain Valley Watch, a collaboration of volunteers and experts who observe, document and report environmental issues they see during the pipeline’s construction.

Appalachian Voices has supported community-led efforts in myriad ways — hosting water quality monitoring trainings with Trout Unlimited and West Virginia Rivers Coalition, helping connect opponents with allies, lawmakers, the media and others, and providing technical and organizing guidance.

Multiple local governments, like Craig County, VA and Roanoke County, VA have expressed opposition against the pipeline due to pressure from constituents who oppose MVP. Community groups have organized protests and demonstrations against the pipeline with some individuals being arrested for protesting or participating in tree-sits at or near pipeline construction sites.

Below we have highlighted some of the concerns from communities along Mountain Valley Pipeline’s path:

This beautiful creek would be crossed twice by the proposed pipeline. With its karst bedrock, drilling or blasting could cause the creek to go underground, making it inaccessible to all. Photo by Angela Mummaw
This beautiful creek would be crossed twice by the proposed pipeline. With its karst bedrock, drilling or blasting could cause the creek to go underground, making it inaccessible to all. Photo by Angela Mummaw

The pipeline would cross through Dickson, Houston and Stewart Counties in Tennessee, where, according to Tennessee’s Department of Environment and Conservation, there are threatened and endangered species of plants and animals. Some of these include the golden eagle, little blue heron, gray bat, Indiana bat, Price’s potato bean, the hellbender and the alligator snapping turtle.

Kinder Morgan’s plans would also place numerous historical lands and homes in or near the impact or evacuation zone of the methane gas pipeline, including cultural sites like the Promise Land Heritage area and the historic Cumberland Furnace community as well as several Century Farms.

Appalachian Voices is supporting area residents who are concerned about the impacts of TVA’s gas plans on their health, land and local environment.

Kingston / Ridgeline Expansion Project

Kingston Fossil Plant
TVA is considering alternatives to replace the coal-fired Kingston Fossil Plant after 66 years of electricity generation. Advocates are calling on the utility to use solar and other renewables instead of fracked gas to fill the gap. Public domain photo

TVA is shutting down the coal-powered Kingston Fossil Plant in Harriman, Tennessee, because it is no longer cost-effective or reliable. The utility currently favors expensive methane gas as a replacement, which would require building a new, 122-mile pipeline to bring the gas to the plant.

The proposed 122-mile Ridgeline Expansion Project would be owned and operated by Enbridge Inc., a multinational pipeline giant based in Canada. The pipeline would cross an estimated 550 waterways, threatening drinking and farming water for nearby rural communities.

If constructed, it would carry the methane gas through eight Tennessee counties. In Jackson County, the pipeline would cut through Fort Blount, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, the Flynn Creek Impact Crater, which is one of the best-preserved ancient impact craters on earth, and possibly Indigenous historic sites, as records indicate their presence near the pipeline route.

Concerns about public safety include the threats of explosion, like the 2018 explosion of Enbridge’s existing pipeline in Smith County. Another Enbridge gas pipeline exploded in 2019 in Kentucky, tragically killing one woman, injuring six people and destroying five homes. The risks to neighboring communities are long-term, while any positive economic progress through pipeline jobs would be mostly temporary.

Appalachian Voices is closely monitoring this situation and has already helped area residents submit comments to FERC expressing concern about the pipeline’s potential impact on these sites and others.

If you’d like to become more involved in this work, reach out to our Tennessee team at tn@appvoices.org and check out our coalition work fighting these gas buildout projects in Tennessee.