Johnsonville Fossil Plant

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Johnsonville Fossil Plant is a coal-fired power station owned and operated by Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) is located on the east bank of the Tennessee River near Waverly, Tennessee. The plant is scheduled to be phased out as a result of a 2011 EPA settlement.

The Johnsonville power station has ten coal-fired generating units and "net dependable generating capacity" of approximately 1,254 megawatts. TVA states that "the plant consumes some 9,600 tons of coal a day." Construction of the Johnsonville power station commenced in 1949 and was commissioned in 1952. According to the TVA the "plant consumes about 9,600 tons of coal a day."[1]

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April 2011: TVA to phase out 18 coal units, including Johnsonville

On April 14, 2011, TVA and North Carolina settled the 5-year-old lawsuit - North Carolina v. TVA - over TVA emissions from its coal-fired plants. The deal was part of a larger settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over TVA violations of the clean air act at 11 of its coal-fired plants in Alabama, Kentucky and Tennessee.[2][3]

As part of the North Carolina agreement, TVA agreed to phase out 18 units of its coal plants, adding up to 2,700 MW, and to install modern pollution controls on three dozen additional units.[4] The phase out includes two units at the John Sevier Fossil Plant, all 10 units at the Johnsonville Fossil Plant, both in Tennessee, and six units at the Widows Creek Fossil Plant in north Alabama.[5]

As part of the EPA agreement, TVA will invest an estimated $3 to $5 billion on pollution controls, invest $350 million on clean energy projects, and pay a civil penalty of $10 million.[6]

Tennessee plant closure dents Powder River Basin coal demand

Following Tennessee Valley Authority's proposed closure of the Johnsonville Fossil Plant in Tennessee, as part of an EPA settlement in April 2011. One million tons of Powder River Basin coal is burned in the plant each year. The closure will phase out 2,700 megawatts of Tennessee Valley Authority’s 17,000 megawatts of coal-fired capacity by 2017.[7]

Plant Data

TVA at the Crossroads, produced by Southern Alliance for Clean Energy
  • Owner/Parent Company: Tennessee Valley Authority
  • Plant Nameplate Capacity: 1,485 MW
  • Units and In-Service Dates: 125 MW (1951), 125 MW (1951), 125 MW (1952), 125 MW (1952), 147 MW (1952), 147 MW (1953), 173 MW (1958), 173 MW (1959), 173 MW (1959), 173 MW (1959)
  • Location: 535 Steam Plant Rd., New Johnsonville, TN 37134
  • GPS Coordinates: 36.027778, -87.986389
  • Coal Consumption:
  • Coal Source:
  • Number of Employees:

Emissions Data

  • 2006 CO2 Emissions: 9,087,801 tons
  • 2006 SO2 Emissions: 86,793 tons
  • 2006 SO2 Emissions per MWh:
  • 2006 NOx Emissions: 18,202 tons
  • 2005 Mercury Emissions: 290 lb.

Death and disease attributable to fine particle pollution from Johnsonville Fossil Plant

In 2010, Abt Associates issued a study commissioned by the Clean Air Task Force, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization, quantifying the deaths and other health effects attributable to fine particle pollution from coal-fired power plants.[8] Fine particle pollution consists of a complex mixture of soot, heavy metals, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides. Among these particles, the most dangerous are those less than 2.5 microns in diameter, which are so tiny that they can evade the lung's natural defenses, enter the bloodstream, and be transported to vital organs. Impacts are especially severe among the elderly, children, and those with respiratory disease. The study found that over 13,000 deaths and tens of thousands of cases of chronic bronchitis, acute bronchitis, asthma, congestive heart failure, acute myocardial infarction, dysrhythmia, ischemic heart disease, chronic lung disease, and pneumonia each year are attributable to fine particle pollution from U.S. coal plant emissions. These deaths and illnesses are major examples of coal's external costs, i.e. uncompensated harms inflicted upon the public at large. Low-income and minority populations are disproportionately impacted as well, due to the tendency of companies to avoid locating power plants upwind of affluent communities. To monetize the health impact of fine particle pollution from each coal plant, Abt assigned a value of $7,300,000 to each 2010 mortality, based on a range of government and private studies. Valuations of illnesses ranged from $52 for an asthma episode to $440,000 for a case of chronic bronchitis.[9]

Table 1: Death and disease attributable to fine particle pollution from the Johnsonville Fossil Plant

Type of Impact Annual Incidence Valuation
Deaths 23 $26,000,000
Heart attacks 33 $610,000
Asthma attacks 370 $3,000
Hospital admissions 16 $61,000
Chronic bronchitis 14 $980,000
Asthma ER visits 22 $1,000

Source: "Find Your Risk from Power Plant Pollution," Clean Air Task Force interactive table, accessed February 2011

Coal Ash Waste and Water Contamination

In August 2010 a study released by the Environmental Integrity Project, the Sierra Club and Earthjustice reported that Tennessee, along with 34 states, had significant groundwater contamination from coal ash that was not regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The report, in an attempt to pressure the EPA to regulate coal ash, noted that most states do not monitor drinking water contamination levels near waste disposal sites.[10] The report mentioned Tennessee's Cumberland Steam Plant, Gallatin Fossil Plant and Johnsonville Fossil Plant as three sites that have groundwater contamination due to coal ash waste.[11]

Study: Weak Coal Ash Regulations in Tennessee Highlight Need for Federal Law

A report released in October 2010 by Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) and other environmental groups titled "State of Coal Ash Regulations in Tennessee" cited weak state regulations in Tennessee as an example of the need for federal reform regarding coal ash. As such, the report said regulation should not be left up to state governments: "Given that states like Tennessee have failed to accept regulatory responsibility for coal ash in the past, it is unwise to rely solely on states to ensure that electric generators safely dispose of their coal waste."[12]

In Tennessee, the report noted, two years after the TVA Kingston Fossil Plant coal ash spill, the largest industrial spill in U.S. history, the state had not beefed up laws to handle toxic waste from its coal-fired power plants: "Unfortunately, Tennessee has failed to become a leader in setting strong standards for coal ash disposal," the authors wrote.[12]

A 2010 review of 24 coal ash ponds at the Tennessee Valley Authority's coal-burning power plants found that only half of them meet the minimum criteria for stability. TVA has said they will change all their facilities from wet ash storage to dry ash storage by the end of 2019, at an estimated cost of between $1.5 billion to $2 billion.[13]

The state of Tennessee disputed the report and wrote in a press release that the study "was aimed at supporting the management of coal as a hazardous waste and SACE chose to attack the state's response to the Kingston ash spill as a means to make that case."[14]

Study finds dangerous level of hexavalent chromium at TVA Johnsonville and Kingston coal waste sites

The study "EPA’s Blind Spot: Hexavalent Chromium in Coal Ash," released by EarthJustice and the Sierra Club in early February 2011, reported elevated levels of hexavalent chromium, a highly potent cancer-causing chemical, at several coal ash sites in Tennessee.[15] In all, the study cited 29 sites in 17 states where hexavalent chromium contamination was found. The information was gathered from existing EPA data on coal ash as well as from studies by EarthJustice, the Environmental Integrity Project, and the Sierra Club.[16][17][18][19] It included locations in Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Massachusetts, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virgina and Wisconsin.[15]

According to the report, hexavalent chromium (Cr(VI)) was found at elevated levels at the following sites:[15]

  • TVA's Johnsonville Fossil Plant unlined coal ash pond at 620 ppb (parts per billion) - 31,000 times the proposed California drinking water goals and 6.2 times above the federal drinking water standard.
  • TVA's Kingston Fossil Plant's unlined coal waste pond at 100 ppb (parts per billion) - 5,000 times the proposed California drinking water goals and above the federal drinking water standard.

A press release about the report read:

Hexavalent chromium first made headlines after Erin Brockovich sued Pacific Gas & Electric because of poisoned drinking water from hexavalent chromium. Now new information indicates that the chemical has readily leaked from coal ash sites across the U.S. This is likely the tip of the iceberg because most coal ash dump sites are not adequately monitored.[20]

According to the report, the electric power industry is the leading source of chromium and chromium compounds released into the environment, representing 24 percent of releases by all industries in 2009.[15]

Other coal waste sites

To see a nationwide list of over 350 coal waste sites in the United States, click here. To see a listing of coal waste sites in a particular state, click on the map:

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Citizen groups

Articles and Resources

References

  1. Tennessee Valley Authority, "Johnsonville Fossil Plant", Tennessee Valley Authority website, accessed June 2008.
  2. "TVA settles with N.C. over coal plant emissions" News Observer.com, April 14, 2011.
  3. "Consent Decree," North Carolina v. TVA, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Tennessee at Knoxville, accessed April 20, 2011
  4. "Blockbuster Agreement Takes 18 Dirty TVA Coal-Fired Power Plant Units Offline" Sierra Club, April 14, 2011.
  5. "TVA Phasing out Hundreds of Jobs at Coal Plants" ABC, April 14, 2011.
  6. "EPA Landmark Clean Air Act Settlement with TVA to Modernize Coal-Fired Power Plants and Promote Clean Energy Investments / State-of-the-art pollution controls and clean energy technology to provide up to $27 billion in annual health benefits" EPA, April 14, 2011.
  7. "Tennessee plant closure dents Powder River Basin coal demand" Jeremy Fugleberg, April 23, 2011.
  8. "The Toll from Coal: An Updated Assessment of Death and Disease from America's Dirtiest Energy Source," Clean Air Task Force, September 2010.
  9. "Technical Support Document for the Powerplant Impact Estimator Software Tool," Prepared for the Clean Air Task Force by Abt Associates, July 2010
  10. "Study of coal ash sites finds extensive water contamination" Renee Schoff, Miami Herald, August 26, 2010.
  11. "Enviro groups: ND, SD coal ash polluting water" Associated Press, August 24, 2010.
  12. 12.0 12.1 "Study: Weak Coal Ash Regs in Tenn. Highlight Need for Federal Law" Stacy Feldman, Reuters, October 28, 2010.
  13. "Study of TVA coal ash ponds finds shortcomings" WATE.com, October 21, 2010.
  14. "State disputes coal ash report" Ed Marcum, Knoxvillebiz.com, October 28, 2010.
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 "EPA’s Blind Spot: Hexavalent Chromium in Coal Ash" Earthjustice & Sierra Club, February 1, 2011.
  16. "Damage Case Report for Coal Combustion Wastes," August 2008
  17. U.S. EPA Proposed Coal Ash Rule, 75 Fed. Reg. 35128
  18. EarthJustice, Environmental Integrity Project, and Sierra Club, "In Harm's Way: Lack of Federal Coal Ash Regulations Endangers Americans and their Environment," August 2010
  19. EarthJustice and Environmental Integrity Project, "Out of Control: Mounting Damages from Coal Ash Waste Sites," May 2010
  20. "Coal ash waste tied to cancer-causing chemicals in water supplies" Alicia Bayer, Examiner.com, February 1, 2011.

External resources

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