coalminerMUHLENBERG COUNTY, Ky. (2/25/19) — TVA’s board decision to close Paradise Unit 3 at Drakesboro has already affected the jobs of 67 coal miners in Muhlenberg County.

KenAmerican Resources Paradise No. 9 Mine has been idled and 34 positions eliminated, according to company spokesman Jason Witt. At Muhlenberg County Coal Company’s Pride Mine, 16 positions were lost and another 17 are gone from the Western Kentucky Coal Company’s Genesis Mine.

The jobs lost are a direct result of “the market conditions that we have experienced” related to the closure of TVA’s Paradise Unit 3, said Witt.

“TVA was the largest customer for our operations in west Kentucky including KenAmerican Resources,” he said.

Tennessee Valley Authority’s board voted Feb. 14 at its Chattanooga, Tennessee office to close the last remaining coal plant at the Paradise TVA facility along with shuttering its Bull Run Steam Plant near Oak Ridge, Tennessee, also a coal-burning plant.

TVA's contract with KenAmerican Resources is valid through 2020, according to TVA spokesman Scott Brooks.

TVA Paradise opened a natural gas plant after two coal plants were closed in 2017.

During the Feb. 14 board meeting, Kenny Allen, a retired coal operator of Hopkins County, said he not only feared the regional economic impact from the unit’s closing but also the risks of not having a coal source at TVA Paradise.

“I also am concerned about the reliability of TVA’s power without these units. Other types of fuel supplies like natural gas and renewable power are not as resilient,” said Allen prior to the vote. He also mentioned that TVA’s Paradise plant sits atop one of the richest sources of coal fuel in the world and has several modes to receive coal into the plant.

During TVA’s Feb. 14 board meeting, TVA President and CEO Bill Johnson, who has announced he will retire later this year, said “TVA has more than enough capacity to meet the load without Paradise and Bull Run.”

When the board voted 5-2 to close Unit 3, it ended seven decades of coal-burning power generation in Muhlenberg County. KU closed its coal-burning plant in Muhlenberg in 2015 citing increasing environmental regulation mandates on coal-fired generation.

Woody Maglinger, Deputy Communications Director with Gov. Matt Bevin's Office, made the following statement today concerning the job losses:

"As Gov. Bevin cautioned ahead of the Tennessee Valley Authority’s vote to close the coal-fueled Paradise Unit 3, there are significant ripple effects that result from the TVA Board’s decision to close that plant. Coal must remain an integral piece of America’s energy portfolio if our nation is to remain energy secure. Failure to recognize the critical role that coal must play threatens the stability of our energy supply, our economy, and our very communities."

Elsewhere in the nation, natural gas is the primary power source for some areas. However, it's not without its glitches.

About a month ago, Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo declared a state of emergency in Newport County after more than 7,000 National Grid natural gas customers lost service during a significant cold snap, according to a Jan. 26 story in the Boston Globe.

In Newport, the National Guard was helping residents get to warming shelters or go to hotels. A story on WJAR Channel 10 in Rhode Island reported the issue was due to low pressure on the National Grid natural gas transmission system.

Rita Dukes Smith
SurfKY News Director

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