NASHVILLE (AP) – The Tennessee Valley Authority is beginning work this week on part of a project that will reduce emissions at its coal-burning power plant in Gallatin.
The Tennessean reports workers are set to start pouring concrete for a 370-foot chimney, which is part of a $1.1 billion project that aims to produce cleaner air by cutting certain emissions by up to 96 percent.
The work begins even though a coalition of environmental groups has sued TVA over its decision to continue operating the plant.
Meanwhile, several businesses in Gallatin are anticipating the project as a way to spur the local economy.
TVA is the nation's largest public utility, supplying power to about 9 million people in Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia.
The federal agency is beginning a nearly five-year effort this year to build devices at the plant that would cut emissions of mercury, nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide. The move comes after TVA entered into an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, four states and three environmental groups to meet new requirements of the federal Clean Air Act by reducing emissions.
The federal agency considered options including whether to invest money in reducing emissions or to shut down the plant.
"I think it is a close question whether to proceed with the projects," TVA president and CEO Bill Johnson wrote in a letter this year. "The Gallatin units are performing very well, and there are better candidates for retirement on the TVA system."
The plant burns 13,000 tons of coal a day and produces enough electricity to power the equivalent of 300,000 homes.
Critics of coal-burning plants argue in their lawsuit that TVA didn't fully study other options including closure.
"TVA in our view didn't take a close enough look at the retirement option and other solutions to meet that demand," said Jonathan Levenshus, who helps lead the Sierra Club's Tennessee Beyond Coal campaign. "They could have taken a harder look at renewable energy, a harder look at efficiency."
Businesses near the plant are gearing up for as many as 900 contract workers who will be needed for construction of the emissions devices.
"We're glad the steam plant is going to remain open," Gallatin Mayor Jo Ann Graves said. "It's going to provide a lot of jobs for people in this area."
The project will have more than one positive impact, Graves said.
"It's cleaner air for all of our citizens," she said.
Information from: The Tennessean, www.tennessean.com
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