Deadly Kingston Coal Plant to Be Retired

Replacement Methane Gas Plant Would Be Polluting, Costly

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Today, after years of dedicated community advocacy and activism, the Tennessee Valley Authority finalized its plan to retire the 1,700-megawatt Kingston coal plant in Roane County, Tenn. The federal utility issued the final decision to decommission all nine units in 2027. This is the 382nd coal plant to announce a retirement since the start of Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign. 

When completed in 1955, the Kingston coal plant was the largest in the world. It is also the source of the largest industrial spill in U.S. history. In 2008, more than 1.5 million tons of coal ash — the toxic waste left over when coal is burned — broke out of an earthen dam, pouring into nearby rivers and covering 300 acres with a thick gray sludge containing arsenic, mercury, and other heavy metals. Cleanup workers have suffered debilitating illnesses connected to this toxic exposure. More than 60 workers have died, and hundreds more are sick or dying. For years, the Sierra Club has worked alongside the workers and their families to fight for justice and to make sure no other community suffers what they did. 

While advocates and community members celebrate the pending retirement of the Kingston coal plant, the work to secure healthy air and water and to protect the pocketbooks of customers continues. TVA is recommending replacing the coal plant with a large methane gas plant with only a small solar farm and battery energy storage. TVA also plans over 100 miles of gas pipelines. Methane gas is a dirty fossil fuel that’s 80 times more powerful than carbon dioxide over a 20-year time frame and a major contributor to the climate crisis. Generating power by burning gas harms people’s health, increases medical costs, and puts Tennessee’s natural beauty at risk. 

TVA received an “F” in this year’s edition of “The Dirty Truth About Utility Climate Pledges,” because it plans an enormous amount of new fossil gas infrastructure that will force customers to pay expensive and volatile fuel prices for decades to come. According to an analysis, TVA would save customers $630 million by replacing Kingston with clean energy instead of gas.

"There's still more work to do, but thanks to decades of advocacy from people across the Valley, folks living near the Kingston coal plant will soon be breathing cleaner air," said Amy Kelly, Field Organizing Strategist for the Tennessee Valley of Sierra Club. "TVA has two other coal plants remaining and continues to plan a massive buildout of fossil gas, so we'll continue to support community efforts to speed up the transition to clean, reliable renewable energy."

“The retirement of the Kingston coal plant, site of the largest industrial disaster in U.S. history, is a testament to the power of the people who’ve fought it for so long,” said Kent Minault of the Tennessee Chapter of Sierra Club. “At the same time, methane gas and pipelines are not the way forward. TVA is at a moral crossroads: It can move toward a sustainable future with affordable solar and storage, or it can continue burning fossil fuels, which pollutes the air and water and negatively impacts communities. The public clearly demands the former.”


About the Sierra Club

The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with millions of members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person's right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit