The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) has extended the comment period about its proposed Cheatham County power plant until July 7, giving local residents more time to weigh in on this controversial issue.
TVA wants to build a natural gas-fired combustion turbine plant and a battery energy storage system on 285 acres of land near Ashland City that it acquired from the county in 2020.
The plant would generate around 900 megawatts of electricity. The electricity would replace part of the generation capacity lost when TVA retires a coal-fired unit at the Cumberland Fossil Plant in 2028.
TVA says the battery storage plant would provide more grid stability as it integrates more solar energy into its power system.
A reliable power system is important as middle Tennessee grows. TVA provides electricity for local power companies serving 10 million people in Tennessee and parts of six surrounding states.
Dickson Electric, which serves customers in the Kingston Springs area, is one of those power companies. TVA, which is self-financed, also provides power directly to large industrial plants and federal facilities.
Natural gas is a cleaner-burning fuel than coal, so TVA contends the plant would be a net plus for the environment.
Local residents and environmentalists disagree.
They turned out in large numbers to express their opposition to the plant at a June 21 open house held by TVA in Ashland City and nearly 150 residents showed up to the June 26 Cheatham County Commission meeting.
Here are some of the arguments against building the plant:
The plant would use 75 acres of this 285-acre undeveloped property and border Sycamore Creek. There’s a 13-acre pollinator habitat along Sycamore Creek, which is one of several concerns that TVA will look at when it prepares an environmental impact statement on the project. Area residents say the plant would spoil a beautiful natural area.
A 12-mile natural gas pipeline, as well as off-site power lines, would be built to serve the plant. TVA hasn’t specified the pipeline’s route, although it says it would be located in or adjacent to an existing pipeline right-of-way where possible. Nobody wants a pipeline in their back yard.
Natural gas may produce less carbon dioxide emissions than coal, but natural gas is still a fossil fuel, and methane is a greenhouse gas in its own right. Environmentalists say TVA should do more to expand its use of renewables, such as solar and wind power, instead of building more fossil fuel plants
“I’ve had calls, I’ve had emails,” Cheatham County Mayor Kerry McCarver said to Fox17 Nashville. “It’s very frustrating. But hoping we can get some more time, hoping we can get some more details. And I think they owe the community that. They need to have true, honest answers so we know what we’re getting if it’s going to be forced on us – but also look for opportunities to delay alternatives. And there’s no reason we can’t do that.”
McCarver told the Cheatham County Exchange that the county will have little say legally in what TVA does with the property.
“It is concerning that county government and even the state government have no jurisdiction over what TVA decides. They do not have to seek rezoning or approval of the county or community. The utility is at the federal level of government and those who have contacted my office, I have directed them to voice their concerns or opposition to Congressman Mark Green, Senator Marsha Blackburn, and Senator Bill Haggerty since they are our representatives at the federal level,” McCarver said.
You can find more information about TVA’s proposal and comment on it by going to www.tva.com/environment/environmental-stewardship/environmental-reviews/nepa-detail/cheatham-county-generation-site.