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In Blow to Trump, Federal TVA Board Votes to Shutter Two Coal Plants

In Blow to Trump, Federal TVA Board Votes to Shutter Two Coal Plants

President Donald Trump tweeted a plea on Monday to the Tennessee Valley Authority, asking it not to shutter two aging coal-fired plants, one in Kentucky and one in Tennessee, and at least keep one of them open.

“Coal is an important part of our electricity generation mix,” Trump tweeted, urging the TVA to “give serious consideration to all factors before voting to close viable power plants, like Paradise #3 in Kentucky!”

The president’s plea went unheard, as the TVA overwhelmingly voted Thursday to close both plants. Three of the four people Trump himself appointed to the federal TVA board joined in the 6-1 majority vote to close the Paradise 3 plant in Kentucky by December 2020, and all seven members voted to close Tennessee’s Bull Run plant by December 2023.

The sole vote in favor of keeping Paradise 3 open came from a Trump appointee.

The Paradise 3 closure will put 131 people out of work, and an additional 135 people who work in nearby coal mines that supply the plant, including one owned by a major Trump campaign donor.

“It is not about coal. This decision is about economics,” TVA chief executive William D. Johnson said. “It’s about keeping rates as low as feasible.”

It seems keeping coal mines open and coal miners working is one campaign promise even Trump won’t be able to keep. The TVA is trending toward retiring its older coal-fired power plants in favor of cheap, clean energy, including natural gas.

In December, the TVA supplied more power from hydroelectricity and renewables than coal for the first time since the 1950s.

The shift has frustrated political leaders, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

“We hoped the TVA would listen and be on our side, but instead, they rejected coal … and ignored the impact this decision will have on hundreds of hard working Kentuckians and their families,” McConnell said.

The Paradise 3 plant, in Muhlenberg County, Ky., was at one time the nation’s top coal-producing plant, and was opened in 1963.

“The overall costs to our customers would be $320 million lower if these two plants were not in the fleet,” TVA CEO John Thomas told the board.