4. Mid of Billy Sabin, Tennessee Valley Authority manager in charge of transition to natural gas plant
5. SOUNDBITE (English) Billy Sabin, Tennessee Valley Authority manager:
"We've been working throughout the past few years and already setting ourselves up for the decommission of different coal sites. And with the combined cycle plants that we've been putting in place they don't have near the emissions that coal plants do, at least from a carbon standpoint."
6. Wide pan of where natural gas burning unit will be built
7. Tight pan of natural gas turbine graphic
8. Tight of Paradise stack with steam
9. SOUNDBITE (English) Billy Sabin, Tennessee Valley Authority manager:
"Fossil fuel itself has the higher nox (nitrous oxide), it's got the higher sulfur dioxide that exists which require the scrubbers. It's got all those extra additives that exist which require the extra equipment need to bring it within regulation. Natural gas is just a cleaner source of fuel."
10. Wide of trucks preparing to dump coal
11. Mid of truck dumping coal
12. Mid of Paradise cooling towers
13. Tight of cooling towers
14. SOUNDBITE (English) Billy Sabin, Tennessee Valley Authority manager:
"Because unit 3 will continue to run, it's still going to burn between 2.7 and 3 million tons of coal. So it will be about a 50 percent reduction from what we do now."
In the shadow of Paradise Fossil Plant's aging smokestacks, where white steam rises into the sky, outdated coal-fired generators are being replaced with a new, natural gas one.
The change in Muhlenberg County, once the nation's top producer of coal, is emblematic of what's happening across the U.S. as natural gas becomes cheaper and electric utilities try to meet stiffer carbon emissions rules the Obama administration announced this week.
When the $1 billion natural gas facility is finished in 2017, the Tennessee Valley Authority, the nation's largest public utility, will shut down two coal-burning units at Paradise that date to the 1960s.
The Environmental Protection Agency says natural gas generators produce about half the carbon dioxide of coal-fired units, and a fraction of other harmful pollutants.
Coal supplies about 90 percent of the electricity in Kentucky, and about 40 percent of the nation's power generation, compared with about 27 percent for natural gas.
But the efficient gas technology wasn't being welcomed by everyone in the county, where the first coal seams were dug in the early 1900s and immortalized in John Prine's song "Paradise," with its lyrics: "Well, they dug for their coal till the land was forsaken, Then they wrote it all down as the progress of man."
There's also sure to be some lost jobs at the Paradise plant when the new facility opens, since gas-fired generators need about a third of the workforce of a coal-burning unit.
During a tour of the construction site Tuesday, Sabin said Paradise would need about 130 fewer employees when the two coal-burning units shut down, bringing the plant's total employment to about 210 workers. Sabin said the utility would work to find the displaced workers jobs at other sites.
The TVA said this week that its system-wide carbon emissions are on track to be cut by 40 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. By that time, TVA's carbon emissions will be about half what they were at the 1995 peak.
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