MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The Tennessee Valley Authority is closing the 55-year-old Allen Fossil Plant to build a natural gas plant across the street.
About 100 people will lose their jobs, though the TVA said it will work with those employees to find other positions if possible.
The new plant will cost at least $975 million
The EPA is pushing to eliminate coal plants in the United States, and environmentalists say the plants need to go due to pollution.
The EPA came down and said the plant on River Street isn't meeting environmental standards and needs to shut down by 2018. So now TVA is taking action, taking this plant off line, and building a new natural gas plant across the street in this empty field.
Chris Stanley is a spokesperson for TVA.
He said, "We've got to have cleaner burning sources of energy. That's what we're looking for and that's what the natural gas plant will be for us."
Stanley says the natural gas plant only needs a quarter of the workforce.
Meanwhile, those who support coal say it is a plentiful and inexpensive energy source in the United States.
“We evaluated our options from financial, business and environmental perspectives and decided this is the best way to help us meet our cleaner air goals and optimize the generation portfolio,” TVA President and CEO Bill Johnson said. “Memphis is our largest customer and we must have a proven source of generation in the city to ensure system-wide reliability while giving us flexibility that allows for future growth.”
The natural gas plant will reportedly reduce carbon emissions, "by more than 60 percent, nitrogen oxides by 90 percent and sulfur dioxide by nearly 100 percent while taking advantage of environmentally friendly options, such as the use of methane gas and the recycling of gray water from the Memphis Waste Water Treatment Plant rather than using water from McKellar Lake."
The exhaust from the combustion turbines will generate steam to drive a steam turbine, making it one of the most efficient power generation plants.
According to the TVA, "Numerous options were considered, including the use of wind, solar, biomass, energy efficiency, a transmission-only solution, various configurations of gas generation and other configurations. The recommended 2-on-1 combined-cycle design provided the highest level of reliable, consistent generation potential at the lowest generation cost. Other options were considerably more expensive."
In the last 20 years, Clyde Coleman has seen his neighborhood fall on tough times.
"A lot of people they have kids and stuff. They depend on their jobs," he said. "If you close that down, it will leave a dent in the economy. especially around here."
Thursday's news that the TVA coal plant is closing down is added insult to injury.
Coleman said, "Too many plants are closing. That's the only thing really left going on around here. That and the cotton gin."
In a few short years, the coal piles will be a thing of the past. Some groups like the Sierra Club will tell you it's a relief and will make it easier for people to breathe. Other people, like Coleman, suspect it will only lead to more crime.
"If you want work a lot of people steal and sell drugs. Now you're taking this away? It's going to be a big problem," he said.