Why Is Trump Defending a Coal-Fired Power Plant in Kentucky?

Corruption has become so commonplace in U.S. politics under the Trump administration that it’s sometimes hard to remember that the new normal is not, in fact, normal. After all, politicians should never be calling in extravagant favors for friends, family and donors.

And while corruption is always infuriating, a recent case is especially bad: The Trump administration is trying to intervene and save a coal-fired power plant at the expense of taxpayers and the environment — all to keep a donor happy.

The Tennessee Valley Authority’s Paradise Fossil Plant, located in Western Kentucky, was singled out for retirement in an environmental assessment memo. The agency notes that the plant is likely to need expensive maintenance and retrofitting to address environmental regulations — and it’s just not worth it. Paradise Fossil plant is also not flexible enough to meet the agency’s needs.

Those are all pretty solid reasons for the agency to invest its resources elsewhere, with TVA set to make a decision during a Thursday meeting.

But then Donald Trump got wind of this, and he singled out the plant closure on Twitter. Politicians friendly to coal hopped on the bandwagon, making it seem as though the TVA was merrily shuttering perfectly functional coal-fired plants and spitting out talking points straight out of the coal industry’s handbook.

The TVA felt compelled to respond on Twitter, reflecting the fact that more and more people and agencies have resorted to the social networking platform to communicate with the president.

Republicans, for some reason, are fixated on coal, a dying industry. The GOP has overstated the number of people employed by the industry, and the party opposes environmental regulations designed to rein in the worst parts of coal — and, yes, ultimately to transition to more environmentally-friendly fuels.

No energy authority, however, is going to close a plant if doing so would compromise their ability to meet the grid’s needs. Shuttering old plants that are costly to run and maintain is a great way to slowly transition away from dependence on coal, with the TVA using more and more natural gas.

So why this power plant? Well, the man who supplies it with coal is a big Trump donor, Robert Murray. He and his company gave Trump $1 million in 2018, and they’re on track to continue the hefty campaign contributions. Trump’s leaning on a board heavily stacked with his own appointees to do his donor a solid. Murray has also spent a lot of money at Trump properties.

There’s no evidence to suggest that sticking with coal will be “lower cost,” as some are claiming — and it could, in fact, be more expensive to keep propping up the aging plant. The professionals at the TVA are very experienced when it comes to balancing their portfolio, or the sources of energy they rely upon — and they won’t recommend shuttering a facility if it was economically efficient and feasible to continue operating it. After all, decommissioning is also expensive.

Will corruption win out, keeping this plant open in the face of all evidence? Only time will tell.

One little note about the TVA: It was formed during the original New Deal to rapidly advance electrification of the rural South, and it’s the largest government-owned power company, serving 10 million customers. One promise of the Green New Deal currently under discussion in Congress is the growth of green jobs — like those involved in building, operating and maintaining clean energy facilities.

Photo credit: Schroptschop/Getty Images

38 comments

Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Bearaabout a month ago

th

SEND
Tabot T
Tabot Tabout a month ago

Glad they voted to close these plants anyway

SEND
Leo C
Leo Cabout a month ago

Thank you for sharing!

SEND
Danuta W
Danuta Wabout a month ago

Thank you for sharing

SEND
heather g
heather gabout a month ago

no comment

SEND
Debbi W
Debbi Wabout a month ago

trump is for sale. The coal industry obviously new that and paid the price. trump doesn't care about the quality of the air we breath and thinks nothing will touch him. He's a jackass and is destroying our country.

SEND
Shirley S
Shirley Sabout a month ago

Isn't it natural & loyal to support friends that donate a million or two to your cause ?

SEND
Peggy B
Peggy Babout a month ago

Anyone who is in the Trump 'base' has to be as ignorant and uncouth as he is or they would see him for what he is. Ignore the trolls. They need to get a life and some friends.

SEND
Peggy B
Peggy Babout a month ago

Because he is an idiot. Google it.

SEND
Anne M
Anne Mabout a month ago

Oh my goodness,, look at those smokestacks at the start of the article,, takes your breath away !! - (cough,cough,, hack,hack...) - That Robert Murray should be made to live next to them, and see how he likes it...- All about money,, as usual...

SEND