Gallatin Fossil Plant

From Global Energy Monitor

Gallatin Fossil Plant is a 1,255.2-megawatt (MW) coal-fired power station owned and operated by Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) near middle Tennessee on the north bank of the Cumberland River.


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Plant Data


The Gallatin power station has four coal-fired generating units and "net dependable generating capacity" of approximately 988 megawatts. TVA states that "the plant consumes some 12,350 tons of coal a day." Construction of the Gallatin power station commenced in 1953 and was commissioned in 1959. According to the TVA the "plant consumes about 8,900 tons of coal a day."[2]

Coal Source

In the EIA documents from database EIA923 there have not been reported any coal deliveries to the Gallatin Fossil Plant for the last couple of years, they are filed under the "Calvert City" name.

TVA at the Crossroads, produced by Southern Alliance for Clean Energy

Emissions Data

  • 2006 CO2 Emissions: 7,735,850 tons
  • 2006 SO2 Emissions: 23,459 tons
  • 2006 SO2 Emissions per MWh:
  • 2006 NOx Emissions: 6,991 tons
  • 2005 Mercury Emissions: 280 lb.

Legal challenges


In 2011 TVA settled with the EPA to install upgraded pollution controls on Gallatin's four coal-fired boilers.

In April 2013 four environmental groups filed a lawsuit seeking to block the planned Gallatin retrofits, saying TVA's decision failed to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act because executives did not give sufficient consideration to the alternative scenarios, including closing Gallatin. According to the Sierra Club, TVA's decision would spend "$1 billion in customer money to prop up an obsolete coal plant."[3]

According to Scientific American: "[E]nvironmental groups are also angered by TVA's plans to use a former wildlife management area to store coal ash; the discharge of wastewater into Old Hickory Lake, a tributary of the Cumberland River; and the planned relocation of an aquatic research facility dedicated to endangered species."[3]


On July 2, 2012, a coalition of environmental activist groups led by Earthjustice filed an appeal of a pollution permit issued for the plant with the Tennessee Water Quality Control Board, claiming the wastewater discharge permit from the Tennessee Department of Environmental Conservation does not limit toxic discharges into the water.[4]

Death and disease attributable to fine particle pollution from Gallatin Fossil Plant

In 2010, Abt Associates issued a study commissioned by the Clean Air Task Force, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization, quantifying the deaths and other health effects attributable to fine particle pollution from coal-fired power plants.[5] Fine particle pollution consists of a complex mixture of soot, heavy metals, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides. Among these particles, the most dangerous are those less than 2.5 microns in diameter, which are so tiny that they can evade the lung's natural defenses, enter the bloodstream, and be transported to vital organs. Impacts are especially severe among the elderly, children, and those with respiratory disease. The study found that over 13,000 deaths and tens of thousands of cases of chronic bronchitis, acute bronchitis, asthma, congestive heart failure, acute myocardial infarction, dysrhythmia, ischemic heart disease, chronic lung disease, and pneumonia each year are attributable to fine particle pollution from U.S. coal plant emissions. These deaths and illnesses are major examples of coal's external costs, i.e. uncompensated harms inflicted upon the public at large. Low-income and minority populations are disproportionately impacted as well, due to the tendency of companies to avoid locating power plants upwind of affluent communities. To monetize the health impact of fine particle pollution from each coal plant, Abt assigned a value of $7,300,000 to each 2010 mortality, based on a range of government and private studies. Valuations of illnesses ranged from $52 for an asthma episode to $440,000 for a case of chronic bronchitis.[6]

Table 1: Death and disease attributable to fine particle pollution from the Gallatin Fossil Plant

Type of Impact Annual Incidence Valuation
Deaths 110 $780,000,000
Heart attacks 160 $17,000,000
Asthma attacks 1,700 $90,000
Hospital admissions 76 $1,800,000
Chronic bronchitis 64 $29,000,000
Asthma ER visits 100 $37,000

Source: "Find Your Risk from Power Plant Pollution," Clean Air Task Force interactive table, accessed February 2011

Gallatin ranked 17th on list of most polluting power plants in terms of coal waste

In January 2009, Sue Sturgis of the Institute of Southern Studies compiled a list of the 100 most polluting coal plants in the United States in terms of coal combustion waste (CCW) stored in surface impoundments like the one involved in the TVA Kingston Fossil Plant coal ash spill.[7] The data came from the EPA's Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) for 2006, the most recent year available.[8]

Gallatin Fossil Plant ranked number 17 on the list, with 2,093,068 pounds of coal combustion waste released to surface impoundments in 2006.[7]

Coal waste

Coal Ash Waste and Water Contamination

In August 2010 a study released by the Environmental Integrity Project, the Sierra Club and Earthjustice reported that Tennessee, along with 34 states, had significant groundwater contamination from coal ash that was not regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The report, in an attempt to pressure the EPA to regulate coal ash, noted that most states do not monitor drinking water contamination levels near waste disposal sites.[9] The report mentioned Tennessee's Cumberland Steam Plant, Gallatin Fossil Plant and Johnsonville Fossil Plant as three sites that have groundwater contamination due to coal ash waste.[10]

Groundwater contamination

In July 2011, tests found coal ash contamination in the groundwater of all but one of the 10 Tennessee Valley Authority plants assessed, including two sites where investigators say the pollution could pose a health hazard. The inspector general’s assessment pointed in particular to the contamination at the Gallatin Fossil Plant and Cumberland Steam Plant in Tennessee. Excessive levels of arsenic and other toxic metals from coal ash were detected at Cumberland, 50 miles northwest of Nashville, while beryllium, cadmium and nickel were discovered at Gallatin.

In addition, the inspector general said that TVA officials for more than 10 years have found indications that toxic metals could be leaking from a coal ash pond at the authority’s Allen Fossil Plant. Arsenic above currently allowable levels was found repeatedly in a monitoring well at the site, which lies above a deep, high-quality aquifer that supplies drinking water to Memphis and nearby areas.

A TVA spokeswoman told the newspaper in an email that, at the time of the testing at Allen, the contamination levels were within limits set by the Environmental Protection Agency for drinking water. However, the inspector general’s report said that arsenic levels exceeded a tighter standard later adopted by the EPA.[11]

Citizen groups

Articles and Resources


  1. "EIA 923 July 2020" EIA 923 July 2020.
  2. Tennessee Valley Authority, "Gallatin Fossil Plant", Tennessee Valley Authority website, accessed June 2008.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Daniel Cusick, "U.S. Coal-Fired Power Plants: Update or Close? The owners of power plants that burn coal are playing high-stakes poker as they decide whether to install expensive pollution controls or shut down," Scientific American, May 20, 2013.
  4. Michael P. Tremoglie, "Battle heats up over coal-fired energy permit in Tennessee," Legal News Online, July 6, 2012.
  5. "The Toll from Coal: An Updated Assessment of Death and Disease from America's Dirtiest Energy Source," Clean Air Task Force, September 2010.
  6. "Technical Support Document for the Powerplant Impact Estimator Software Tool," Prepared for the Clean Air Task Force by Abt Associates, July 2010
  7. 7.0 7.1 Sue Sturgis, "Coal's ticking timebomb: Could disaster strike a coal ash dump near you?," Institute for Southern Studies, January 4, 2009.
  8. TRI Explorer, EPA, accessed January 2009.
  9. "Study of coal ash sites finds extensive water contamination" Renee Schoff, Miami Herald, August 26, 2010.
  10. "Enviro groups: ND, SD coal ash polluting water" Associated Press, August 24, 2010.
  11. "Toxic Metals from Coal Ash Found in Groundwater at TVA Power Plants" Fair Warning, July 26, 2011.

External Articles

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