'It's About Economics': Two Coal Plants to Close Despite Trump's Tweet
Trump is losing his rallying cry to save coal. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) voted on Thursday to retire two coal-fired power plants in the next few years despite a plea from the president to keep one of the plants open.
Earlier this week, the president posted an oddly specific tweet that urged the government-owned utility to save the 49-year-old Paradise 3 plant in Kentucky. It so happens that the facility burns coal supplied by Murray Energy Corporation, whose CEO is Robert Murray, is a major Trump donor.
But the TVA board of directors voted 5-2 in favor of closing that plant as well as the Bull Run plant in Tennessee.
Coal is an important part of our electricity generation mix and @TVAnews should give serious consideration to all f… https://t.co/yljvUmkAE5— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump)1549922605.0
After the vote, the agency tweeted that the decision to close the plants "will ensure continued reliable power at the lowest cost feasible."
The part about "lowest cost feasible" is key: It simply became too expensive to maintain and operate the aging plants. As TVA CEO William Johnson the Associated Press, "It is not about coal. This decision is about economics."
In an environmental assessment released Monday, the agency recommended retiring the Paradise plant due to high maintenance costs, unreliability and its need for repairs.
"The overall costs to our customers would be $320 million lower if these two plants were not in the fleet," TVA CFO John Thomas told the board, as quoted by the AP.
Keeping them open would have cost an estimated $1.3 billion in equipment and maintenance investments, according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press.
So the board's decision to close the plants wasn't even based on coal being the most polluting energy source. It was so TVA customers can save money on electricity bills (the benefit of cleaner air is just a bonus).
President Trump's pledge to end the so-called "war on coal" was one of his signature campaign promises. But coal plants are closing at a rapid pace because of economics and competing power sources. As Bloomberg wrote, "What was true under President Barack Obama is still true today: Coal's share of the power mix is declining, and wind and solar remain the fastest-growing U.S. sources of electricity." Coal's decline has also been attributed to the rise of natural gas.
#Wind and #Solar Are the Final Nails in #Coal’s Coffin https://t.co/eVZpnIIUG2 @cleantechnica @BeyondCoal— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1547503216.0
It's clear that Trump's efforts were not enough to sway the TVA board's vote, even though he appointed four of its seven members, the AP noted. One of the "no" votes came from Trump-appointee Kenny Allen, a retired coal exec from Kentucky.
"I'm just not completely comfortable with the recommendation because the impact and ripple effect on community cannot be fully quantified," he said, as quoted by the AP.
The shuttering of the two plants will cost 167 jobs at Paradise and about 100 jobs at Bull Run, and will affect the people in related jobs that support the facilities, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported.
But Johnson, TVA's CEO, said 40 percent of the plant employees whose jobs will be displaced are eligible for retirement, and added that those who want to stay could be offered jobs elsewhere in the utility, the Chattanooga Times Free Press wrote.
TVA board member Virginia Lodge, an Obama-appointee, sided with the majority.
"I don't want anybody to think we have not heard and understood the heartfelt pleas from these communities," she told NPR. "If we could make our decisions based on our sympathetic feeling it would be easy. Unfortunately we've all taken an oath to do what we think is best for the entire Valley."
TVA said on Twitter, "We will work with impacted employees and communities."
The TVA Board votes to retire Paradise Unit 3 and Bull Run within the next few years. Their decision was made after… https://t.co/vDDin4sAI7— Tennessee Valley Authority (@Tennessee Valley Authority)1550160137.0
Sweden's reindeer have a problem. In winter, they feed on lichens buried beneath the snow. But the climate crisis is making this difficult. Warmer temperatures mean moisture sometimes falls as rain instead of snow. When the air refreezes, a layer of ice forms between the reindeer and their meal, forcing them to wander further in search of ideal conditions. And sometimes, this means crossing busy roads.
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>
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