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MUHLENBERG COUNTY, Ky. (10/16/13) – Governor Steve Beshear joined local officials and top executives from TVA Tuesday to present a $435,000 ceremonial check to the Muhlenberg County Fiscal Court for improvements along Riverside Road near the TVA Paradise Fossil Plant in Drakesboro.

The large crowd in attendance included Ben Johnson, who was appointed CEO of TVA in January of this year, after the retirement of Tom Kilgore. The ceremony was held within several yards of the still gravel road, which makes for a bumpy commute for the many TVA workers and contractors who use it daily.
 
Gov. Beshear stated, "This road improvement project is a crucial investment. The other access point is over 15 minutes away. Over time, heavy traffic volumes and congestion have eroded the quality of Riverside Road leading to the plant. The improvements made along this route will provide employees and contractors a smooth, safer commute to work.”
 
The total cost of the project is expected to be around $535,000, according to Beshear.
 
Beshear went on to emphasize that TVA's Paradise plant generates around 14 billion kilowatt hours of electricity per year, while employing around 400 people, at an average salary of around $74,000 a year. It's was a significant purchaser of 6.1 million tons of coal in 2012.
 
“I mentioned to Ben Johnson, that we are very interested in continuing to burn Western Kentucky coal here at this plant,” Beshear said, to a thunderous applause from the crowd.
 
Concluding, the governor said, "I want to personally thank Muhlenberg Judge Executive Rick Newman, his staff and the county's fiscal court for making this all possible. Thanks to Ben Johnson, State Rep. Brent Yonts, and State Rep. Mary Jane King."
 
Next to the podium was State Senator Jerry Rhoads who represents Hopkins, Muhlenberg, and Ohio Counties, who stressed that, "The presence of such a large crowd, including those from surrounding counties, tells us how important TVA is... not just to Muhlenberg, but to Ohio, McLean and Hopkins Counties, and to the entire state. I want to congratulate and thank Judge Newman and his staff for going to Frankfort and stepping up to the plate. This may not seem like a huge project, but it's an important project." Rhoads said.
 
State Rep. Yonts opened his remarks by noting to Governor Beshear that, "This project demonstrates that we can do here in Kentucky what they can't seem to do in Washington, D.C. To find a problem and fix it!"
 
Yonts pointed out that last year the same was true with Highway 176. “I sent pictures of the bad conditions of that road to the governor and he instantly said 'We're going to fix it'. The state spent 1.1 million dollars fixing that road and we appreciate it,” he said. “This project involves four governmental agencies, including the federal, state and local levels."  
 
Yonts then focused his remarks on the visiting TVA dignitaries directly regarding the talk of switching part of the plant to natural gas, thus cutting back on the use of coal from the area.
 
"Burning coal, boosting the local and the state economy with clean, coal-fired cheap energy, TVA Paradise supplies electricity to over 1 million customers. It boosts local and state economies. It creates coal severance money for the counties in which the coal is mined. It sustains the middle class which is an objective frequently observed in Washington these days as a goal, but not seemingly paid much attention to." Yonts said. "TVA provides energy that is clean and cheap to around a million homes. That's what TVA's mission was years ago when it was created. TVA is now discussing the possibility of whether there will be bag houses on units at TVA, (Baghouses are fabric filters used on smoke stacks to control pollution) or to switch some units at Paradise to natural gas. There is a lot of folly in that. Once you change it's hard to go back. A good policy is to burn coal."
 
Yonts went on to note that clean coal methods have worked at the TVA Paradise Plant.
 
"TVA lowered the amounts of sulfur dioxide emissions in 2012 to the lowest level for decades, and lowered the nitrogen oxides to the same level. The failure in debating the emissions issue is Congress. They were supposed to have set carbon dioxide standards in 2012. They can't figure out what to do tonight or tomorrow, much less set the carbon dioxide standards. "
 
"TVA must install baghouses. If you don't you will be the source of the ruination of the economy of all of Western Kentucky," Yonts concluded to applause from the crowd.
 
“We appreciate Gov. Beshear and our state and local partners for taking action to improve this important route to Paradise Fossil Plant,” said TVA President and CEO Bill Johnson. “This project will improve safety for our employees and the public who travel this road every day. TVA and our employees are proud to work and live here in Muhlenberg County, and we are grateful for this community’s support.”  
 
“Muhlenberg County Fiscal Court is pleased to be a partner in this truly significant collaboration between governmental entities on the Riverside Road project,” said Muhlenberg County Judge-Executive Rick Newman. “This is a county road which provides an alternate route for many employees of TVA saving them significant travel time to and from work and considerable improvement of safety factors on the route. We say ‘Thank You’ to the governor’s office, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and the TVA for being partners in this historic collaboration.”
 
The estimated cost of the project is $535,000, to be shared equally by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) and the Muhlenberg County Fiscal Court. KYTC will administer $435,000 to the fiscal court, which will be responsible for construction and remaining project costs. TVA will make some in-kind contributions, including gravel for shoulder work.

Completion is expected in early November 2013.

After the event, Yonts told SurfKY News that those who want to support TVA Paradise remaining a coal-fired plant can contact TVA at 400 West Summit Hill Drive, Knoxville, TN 37902, or phone 865-632-2101 and tell TVA to install baghouses at the Paradise Plant.

*Trouble viewing this gallery on your device?  Click here for photos.

Paul McRee
SurfKY News

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