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Tennessee Lawmaker Searches For Way Around EPA Rules

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Tennessee Lawmaker Searches For Way Around EPA Rules

By Ben Hall. CREATED Jun 2, 2014
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Proposed new federal rules requiring power plants to cut pollution elicited emotional responses from people on both sides of issue.

Critics called the EPA's rules "Obamacare for the air" and said the rules will kill jobs and raise energy prices. Supporters said the rules are needed to combat global warming.

The rules require states to reduce carbon emissions by 30% before 2030.

In Tennessee, that puts the focus on the Tennessee Valley Authority. TVA operates 11 coal-fired plants in the southeast - seven of them are in Tennessee.

TVA has already announced plans to shut down several coal fired units including the entire plant at New Johnsonville.

It's part of TVA's shift away from coal, but it is still reviewing the impact of the EPA announcement.

TVA has already pledged to spend a billion dollars to add scrubbers at the Gallatin coal plant, a move that will keep it open, but at least five other plants will be completely or partially closed as TVA moves toward natural gas and nuclear energy.

The newly proposed rules may force more changes.

House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada of Franklin blasted the new rules.

"It's going to cost a lot of job," Casada said. "It's going to cause our electric bills to go up dramatically and for really no empirical data reason why."

Rep. Casada said he will look for legislative ways around the requirements.

"The exact solution is still being worked out, but I think the first step should be to say, 'Mr. President, you don't have the authority to do this.  The constitution does not give you this right,'" Casada said.

But the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled the EPA can enforce these rules and, unlike the Affordable Care Act, states cannot opt out.

The Tennessee Valley Authority said in a statement that region-wide, it will easily reduce carbon emissions by 30 percent.

The question is, can it meet those standards on a state-by-state basis?

Environmental groups are already pushing TVA to close it's 50-year-old Allen coal plant near Memphis -- instead of investing nearly a billion dollars on scrubbers to reduce carbon.

Supporters of the EPA's plan argued it will not kill jobs.

"As far as jobs, we see it as job growth," said Steve Johnson, president of Lightwave Solar.

He said his company has grown to 35 full-time employees and that it's time to deal with climate change.

"The climate is getting warmer and will continue to get warmer, and we have a part in it.  It needs to be addressed," Johnson said.

States must come up with a plan to reduce emissions by 2016, if they don't the EPA will come up with a plan for them.
Ben Hall

Ben Hall

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Ben Hall is a veteran reporter at NewsChannel 5. He has covered the state legislature, presidential campaigns and is presently part of NewsChannel 5's award-winning investigative unit.