WESTERN KENTUCKY (11/14/13) — The reaction to TVA's decision to shut down two major coal-fired units at its Paradise plant in Muhlenberg County left many in shock Thursday. Soon after the decision was made to retire two of three units, and bring in natural gas units, area politicians let their voices be heard.
Muhlenberg County Judge-Executive Rick Newman serves in the county hardest hit by the cut backs. He has no illusions about what the loss of the two units jeopardizing the county's coal mine jobs.
"Anytime you lose the amount of jobs we're going to lose, it has a very long term impact,” said Newman. “Coal severance revenues will decline. Plus other surrounding counties will be affected. On the positive side, we're going to get a $1.2 billion gas-fired (electrical production). Plus, KU will be building a $700 million dollar plant. That's $2 billion in construction. But I keep thinking about those many long term coal-based jobs that will be gone forever."
State Rep. Brent Yonts,(D) House District 15, represents Muhlenberg County, where the TVA Paradise Plant has been a mainstay for well-paying jobs for decades. Yonts drove to Oxford, Miss., for the TVA Board meeting to remind them once more of the impact this change will have.
Yonts told Surfky News afer that meeting that he believes the board understood the consequence.
"What they said was they had to shut down units one and two due to environmental regulations,” said Yonts. “They do plan to keep unit three running, which is the biggest. But the bottom line is, at least 200 current TVA employees will be gone. Their average salary is around $74,000 a year. That comes to $15 million spent in the area's economy annually. When the gas-fired plant gets going, there will be about 675 to 700 coal miners out of work for good. That means a total of at least 2,500 to 3,000 people will lose their jobs. That doesn't even include the coal severance funds we'll lose. If you add it all up, that's a $300 million impact on the Muhlenberg and surrounding counties."
Webster County Judge Executive James R. Townsend told Surfky News that this decision will not just affect Muhlenberg County, but counties throughout western Kentucky including Webster.
"Webster County will be affected by the TVA decision, without a doubt,” he said. “We have workers at TVA and many coal miners who help supply the plant. I'm also concerned about eastern Kentucky. They now has around 5,000 coal miners laid off. And, if you look at the national scene, there is talk of shipping coal from
the Western U.S. to China."
"When you start pushing everything toward natural gas, (natural) gas will go up. It's all a matter of supply and demand. It's a fact, gas will go up." he added.
Yonts said that this decision is pretty much irreversible.
"There is very little that can be done to reverse this decision. Getting a $1.2 billion natural gas plant is a nice consolation prize, but it's not a very happy time for those 3,000 people who will now be out of good-paying jobs." he said.
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