TVA votes to close two coal power plants, in blow to Trump

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Tennessee Valley Authority voted on Thursday to close two coal-fired power plants, including one in Kentucky that was mostly supplied by a company chaired by a donor to President Donald Trump, who had called on the U.S. owned utility to keep it open.

The 870-megawatt Bull Run coal plant in Tennessee will close by December 2023 and the 971-MW Paradise 3 plant in Kentucky shut by December 2020.

Paradise 3, which entered service in 1970, was mostly supplied with coal last year by Murray Energy, which is chaired by Robert Murray, a donor to Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016.

Early in the Trump presidency, Murray had presented his administration with a wish list of environmental regulations he wanted slashed.

Trump, whose base is partly made up of voters in coal country, has made rolling back environmental regulations and opening up U.S. lands to mining and drilling a priority.

The president had urged the TVA in a message on Twitter on Monday to consider the role of coal in the electric grid before voting.

TVA President and Chief Executive Bill Johnson said ahead of the vote that the plants, which only operated sporadically in recent years, had become too expensive to operate.

“It is not about coal. This decision is about economics,” Johnson said. “It’s about keeping rates as low as feasible.”

(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Marguerita Choy)