scott brooks 300MUHLENBERG COUNTY, Ky. (1/2/14) — In November, many were shocked at the official announcement by the TVA Board of Directors that two coal-fired units at the Paradise Plant in Muhlenberg County will close leaving only one in operation. The other two units will be replaced by natural gas.

Although the TVA plan to shut down the two coal-fired plants is still on track, the process will take at least three years to complete. That's according to TVA spokesperson Scott Brooks.

"There is a permitting process that we have to go through before we can even start construction on the gas plant,” Brooks told SurfKY News Thursday. “We likely will not begin closing the coal-fired plants until the new plants are built. So, this will be at least a three year process. But the fact is, it will take fewer people to operate a natural gas plant than a coal-fired operation."

As far as plans to assist current plant workers regarding early retirement, retraining or other options, Brooks had little to report.

"We have a whole company-wide initiative going on that will involve some voluntary reductions in force,” he said. “In other words, those who are eligible to retire may want to. That will be part of it, and that's going to be going on over the next couple of months. There may also be opportunities for people to move from one position to another."

Brooks said there are no exact estimates of total workers losing their jobs, but earlier estimates from TVA were placed at around 150 employees.

"These jobs would be eliminated in a number of ways by not filling jobs, retirements, and all of that,” he said. “We've been very careful not to say 'Jobs being cut'. Once that three year period is done, it's really hard to say how many of those jobs will actually be eliminated, or which jobs will be reduced through other processes."

Brooks said union workers will be determined after the decisions have been made on what type of gas units will be built.

"Union decisions will play a big part is that total figure, because many of their workers will have the option to move into other positions that may open up elsewhere. That is more of a union question than one we can estimate or deal with," said Brooks. "There will still be 200 to 250 employees needed to operate the one remaining coal-fired plant, but at this time we have no idea what type of natural gas plant we'll be building. That is one big reason we have been very careful as to giving estimates of how many employees will be needed for that operation. Much will depend on whether the new plant will be a simple cycle or a combined cycle operation. All those decisions are still being made."

According to tva.com, a combined cycle plant currently in operation in Rogersville, Tenn., has a total employment of 30 workers. No figures were available for simple cycle plant employee totals.

Paul McRee
SurfKY News Reporter
Photo courtesy of TVA

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