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August 27, 2013

Tennesseans Keep Up the Pressure to Move Beyond Coal

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The Tennessee Valley Authority's Allen coal plant, one of the biggest polluters in Memphis, is feeling the heat, thanks to a strong grassroots turnout by Beyond Coal Campaign organizers and supporters at a recent Shelby County Health Department public hearing.

Families and communities are tired of the fact that air pollution levels in the county exceed Environmental Protection Agency safeguard standards. The 50-year-old Allen plant contributes to 39 premature deaths and more than 600 asthma attacks each year, according to the Clean Air Task Force. 

“The people of Memphis deserve better, and the Shelby County Health Department can deliver by calling on TVA to replace the polluting Allen coal plant with clean energy, protecting families and communities suffering from coal’s effects," said Rita Harris, Sierra Club environmental justice organizer.

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The public hearing drew a packed house of people calling on the TVA to shift to clean energy and energy efficiency. Many asked the Shelby County Health Department to deny reissuing the coal plant's federal operation permit, citing the fact that the Allen plant fails to meet new pollution safeguards. Speakers included representatives from the League of Women Voters, NAACP, Westwood Neighborhood Association, and a state legislator.

To its credit, the TVA has studied energy-efficiency options, but has yet to indicate whether it is committed to them. If the TVA follows its own study, it could save enough energy over the next three years to retire one of its coal plants, according to economic consulting firm Synapse Energy Economics.

“Renewable generation resources such as the Cleanline project that will bring 3,500 megawatts of wind-generated electricity as early as 2015, and increased energy efficiency measures could help Memphis shift away from coal-fired power," said Angela Garrone of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

Tennessee activists are on a roll. Last month, activists took to their kayaks at McKellar Lake in Memphis and the Cumberland River in Nashville to mark the release of the Beyond Coal Campaign's major report (pdf) on water pollution from Big Coal and to demand a new direction for the state's energy future.

-- Brian Foley


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