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Chickasaw Group
Tennessee Chapter
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Memphis Area

Harvey Broome
Knoxville Area

Middle Tennessee
Nashville Area

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Tri-Cities Area

Upper Cumberland
Cookeville Area

Johnson/Carter Counties


The Sierra Club's members and supporters are more than 1.3 million of your friends and neighbors. Inspired by nature, we work together to protect our communities and the planet. The Club is America's oldest, largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization.

The Chickasaw Group of the Sierra Club represents over 1000 members in Memphis and West Tennessee. We advocate for policies that protect our natural environment, offer hikes and outdoor recreation for people of all ages, support environmental candidates for public office, and provide opportunities for people who want to develop leadership skills to help their community while enhancing the environment.

The Sierra Club supports the Tennessee Valley Authority's decision to retire the coal burning units at the Allen Fossil Plant on McKellar Lake in Southwest Memphis.

 The Allen Fossil Plant currently consumes some 7,200 tons of coal a day, which comestibles by barge from the Powder River Basin in Montana and Wyoming. Allen Fossil Plant's three coal-fired generating units have a summer net capability of 702 megawatts. Allen's 20 natural gas combustion turbines have a summer net capability of 456 megawatts. The combined output capability is 1158 megawatts.

Retirement of the current plant and replacing it with a modern combined cycle natural gas plant means:

    *      A dramatic reduction in particulate emissions that cause respiratory illness and have contributed to Memphis' ranking as an Asthma Capitol

    *      Dramatic reductions in sulfur dioxide emissions that cause acid rain and exacerbate asthma, bronchitis and emphysema locally

    *      A dramatic reduction in the emission of nitrogen oxides that contribute to our local ground level ozone problems

    *      A dramatic reduction in carbon dioxide greenhouse gas emissions

    *      No more heavy metals discharged to impaired McKellar Lake

    *      No more entrainment/impingement of fish from cooling water intake

Natural gas power plants generally emit half as much CO 2 as a coal-fired plant. Retiring the coal units at Allen will help TVA meet or exceed the requirements of the Environmental Protection Agency's proposed Carbon Dioxide emission guidelines for existing power plants called the "Clean Power Plan."

The Allen Fossil Plant currently uses only 33% of the biogas captured at the Maxson waste water treatment plant. The new plant will be able to utilize all of the biogas produced. If not captured and burned, this biogas-primarily methane-is released to the atmosphere where it is 21 times worse than CO2 in terms of greenhouse impact.

But, while much cleaner burning, natural gas is not appropriate as a replacement for coal, but rather a necessary evil until we can replace fossil fuels altogether with truly clean and renewable energy sources such as distributed solar voltaic installation and wind power, and dramatic reductions in electricity demand through energy efficiency and conservation programs.

The Sierra Club applauds TVA's decision to retire the dirty and antiquated coal combustion units at Allen. However, while we recognize the need to reliably meet area base load demand and dynamic reactive power to maintain adequate voltage, we do not believe that building a natural gas plant that is larger in capacity than the current facility is warranted. We believe that a combination of Alternative B (new minimum capacity natural gas plant), Alternative D (Energy Efficiency), Alternative F (Renewable Energy), and Alternative G (Transmission System Upgrades and Renewable Power Purchase Agreements) provides a more prudent approach to the future needs of the community.

We are disappointed by TVA's approach to analyzing the options to replace coal at Allen. By examining each potential replacement individually and discarding all alternatives that could not replace current coal capacity by themselves in its entirety, TVA fails to recognize that the solution lies with and "all of the above approach" that incorporates as much clean and renewable energy as possible.

Leaving the Memphis area entirely dependent on natural gas, not just for our electricity needs, but also a predominance of our water and home heating needs, leaves Memphis in a dangerous circumstance should there ever be a disruption of the natural gas supply. It also threatens MLGW ratepayers with the potential for dramatic and/or unexpected rate increases as the price of natural gas rises as predicted by most knowledgeable sources and/or short term price volatilities inherent to globally traded natural resources.

The Sierra Club calls on TVA to take a balanced approach to replacing coal at Allen, and urges TVA's Board of Directors to adopt a plan that incorporates the minimum amount of natural gas generation capacity to provide reliability while making commitments to substantial energy efficiency gains, purchase agreements for wind power from Clean Line and a substantial installation of distributed roof top and brownfield sited commercial scale solar farms.  

We welcome your comments, questions and environmental concerns.

The Sierra Club TV Show "Nature of Conservation" may be seen on WYPL-TV 18 on (Comcast/Xfinity) and online at Vimeo, where previously aired shows can be seen indefinitely. Check the WYPL schedule for viewing times of current month's show.

 For more information, contact Judith Rutschman.


Maintained by Bill Runyan, last updated July 8, 2014.