The Tennessee Valley Authority will begin the procurement process for a new 1.5-GW gas-fired power plant in east Tennessee, set to cost $2.2 billion, announcing April 2 a final decision to retire the 70-year-old, nine-unit Kingston coal-fired facility. The federal power producer also will build 100 MW of battery storage and up to 4 MW of solar generation.

“This energy complex is the most cost-effective option that offers the flexibility and reliability within the timeline to bring the replacement online,” said Allen Clare, TVA senior vice president of power operations. 

Natural gas for the project will be supplied through a new 122-mile natural gas pipeline that must be approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. 

The final decision sets in motion technology selection and contracting steps for the new plant, Scott Brooks, a TVA spokesman, told ENR. He expects the new combined cycle units to begin operating before Kingston is retired in late 2027. They could also burn up to 5% hydrogen.

TVA had released its final environmental impact statement for the Kingston replacement on Feb. 16, listing the gas-fired option as its power generation preference.

But in comments submitted to that review on March 25, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency called it incomplete. Acting Regional Administrator Jeaneanne Gettle said EPA's review determined that it "fails to address numerous [agency] concerns identified" in a draft version, adding that "lack of transparency prevents us from understanding TVA’s treatment of several important issues.” 

Terming the TVA review "insufficient," she asked for a supplemental analysis—adding that the current final version lacks detail on "costs of each power generation option, underestimates greenhouse gas and [other] pollutant emissions, fails to consider a reasonable range of feasible alternatives ... that do not lock-in fossil fuel generation, and inadequately considers impacts on communities with environmental justice concerns.”

TVA spokesman Brooks said many of EPA’s comments were raised previously, and were discussed with the agency on March 27, with comments incorporated into the project record of decision, which launches design and construction work, and includes impacts and mitigation measures. 

TVA also noted that EPA's comments were made after the comment period closed for the final environmental impact statement.

The Kingston plant, once the world's largest coal-fired power plant when it began operating, gained national attention as the site of a massive coal ash spill in 2008 when several million gallons of ash and debris spilled across 300 acres beyond its boundary and into the Emory River. 

TVA paid $28 million to coal ash victims in 2014, with cleanup costing it an estimated $1 billion. That work was completed in 2015, including new site coal ash storage protections.