Residents, environmental groups voice concerns over methane plant project > Voices of Appalachia



Signs advertise meetings without pipelines.

A sign has been erected outside the Jackson’s Chapel Community Center in Charlotte, Tennessee, where a community meeting was held in August 2022 to voice concerns about a proposed methane pipeline.Photo by Angie Manmau

Written by Lorelei Goff

In Middle Tennessee, a proposal to replace aging coal-fired power plants with methane-fired gas plants and pipelines is raising concerns about water quality and explosion risks.

The Tennessee Valley Authority, the nation’s largest federally operated electric utility, and the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company, a subsidiary of gas giant Kinder Morgan, are moving ahead with plans for the Cumberland Pipeline. This is a new project that is part of a larger construction program that has been hydraulically fractured. gas.

The 32-mile-long, 30-inch diameter pipeline will carry pressurized methane, a highly explosive and climate-warming gas, through Dickson, Houston and Stewart counties in Tennessee.

The pipeline will connect existing gas infrastructure in southern Dickson County, where a pipeline exploded in 1992, to a gas plant planned for the city of Cumberland at the current site of the Cumberland Fossil Plant.

The map shows the proposed Cumberland Pipeline route.

The proposed 32-mile-long, 30-inch-diameter Cumberland Pipeline would run through Dickson, Houston, and Stewart counties in Tennessee, transporting pressurized gases known to be highly explosive and climate-warming. It is planned to transport methane.Map provided by: Southern Environmental Law Center

The 50-year-old Cumberland plant, one of the largest and dirtiest operated by TVA, was destroyed during the frigid weather caused by Winter Storm Elliott in December 2022, along with multiple coal and methane gas plants in the region. Closed. These coal and methane gas failures prompted TVA to implement rolling blackouts.

TVA plans to replace one of the Cumberland plant’s coal generators with a 1,450-megawatt combined-cycle methane gas plant that is expected to be operational by 2026. In May 2023, TVA announced plans to partially replace the generator lost from the No. 2 coal-fired unit with another generating unit. Cheatham County Gas Plants and Pipelines. It has not yet announced how it plans to make up for the remaining lost generation.

Meanwhile, two lawsuits by environmental groups seeking to shut down the pipeline and power plant are moving forward, as residents and environmental groups sound the alarm about potential safety risks to people, property and the environment.

The Southern Environmental Law Center and the Appalachian Mountain Advocates, on behalf of the Sierra Club and Appalachian Voices, the publisher of Appalachian Voices, state that state officials at the Tennessee Department of Environmental Conservation have confirmed that state officials on the Cumberland Pipeline It is challenging the state permit for the Cumberland Pipeline, alleging that it ignored the permit. It will have a significant impact on the Harpeth and Cumberland River basins.

The Southern Environmental Law Center also represented Appalachian Voices and the Sierra Club, along with the Center for Biological Diversity, in a lawsuit against TVA over the proposed Cumberland plant, before the utility fully assessed its environmental and climate impacts. The company claims to have started construction of the factory inBoth lawsuits are currently pending.
Federal court.

“The decision to replace coal with another fossil fuel will have a devastating impact on our region,” said Bri Knisley, public power campaign director at Appalachian Voices.

The pipeline project undermines the federal government’s climate change goals, including the national goal to make the energy sector carbon-free by 2035.

The pipeline would also threaten seven wetlands and cross more than 155 streams, including one that could provide habitat for new species of crayfish. These rivers include tributaries of the Harpeth River, which is a source of drinking water for the Nashville, Tennessee, area as well as a popular outdoor recreation destination. This construction will impact more than 5,000 linear feet of streams and will require temporary water withdrawals from eight streams and one reservoir.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ decision on whether to issue a 404 water permit for the pipeline is pending. Section 404 of the Clean Water Act regulates the discharge of dredging or fill material into waters of the United States.

Physical changes to Tennessee waterways also require an aquatic resource modification permit. The Tennessee Department of Environmental Conservation held a public hearing in March regarding Tennessee Gas Co.’s request to amend the permit to include additional river crossings. TDEC proposed waiving its authority under the Clean Water Act to certify that these additional impacts do not violate state water quality standards.

In its petition, Appalachian Voices asked that the permit be denied because TDEC plans to use explosives and open trench techniques to cross the waterway. Both would have significant environmental impacts.

Additionally, the cost of constructing new gas plants and pipelines could result in rate increases for our customers. TVA has already raised rates once to fund expanded gas spending.

Smoke drifts from the chimney of a power plant.

A proposed methane-fired gas plant and 30-inch, 32-mile long methane pipeline have raised concerns about water quality and explosion risks. The methane power plant will replace one of his coal-fired generators at the City of Cumberland’s fossil coal power plant.Photo credit: Angie Manmau

there are many risks

In 1992, a pipeline explosion in Dickson County injured five people, destroyed three homes, and burned 400 acres of farmland.

Richard Honeycutt was a firefighter with the Charlotte Volunteer Fire Department at the time. He said metal fatigue contributed to the explosion.

“Until the gas is released [it reached] It became an ignition source and got so hot that it burned the tar in the asphalt,” Honeycutt said. “The road wasn’t pitch black, it was pitch white.”

His department was unable to get close enough to the homes to extinguish the fires due to the intense heat.

“It was so bad that the pond across the road from where it exploded dried up,” he said.

The proposed Cumberland Pipeline route would follow TVA’s right-of-way and place the pipe beneath high-voltage power lines.

Bob Baird and his wife live in the pipeline’s impact zone. This means that if an explosion were to occur, it would likely destroy your home.

“At our previous location, we lived near high-voltage power lines and had a garden underneath them,” Baird said. He believes that decades of environmental studies on the site did not take the pipeline into account. “We have been shocked many times when harvesting fruits and vegetables.”

Honeycutt also believes power lines increase the possibility of explosions.

Residents along the line have expressed concern that construction could damage springs and streams. In response to a resident’s request for baseline water quality testing, TDEC said it could not do so due to a lack of staff.

Appalachian Voices is using funds donated by the Tri-County Preservation Group, a nonprofit organization created to combat pipeline and future problems the region may face, to help residents I plan to test the waters.

Community backlash

The Tri-County Conservation Group, formerly known as the Cumberland Conservation Group, was formed in December 2022 to fight methane plants and pipelines in Cumberland.

Tri-County Conservation Group Logo

The Tri-County Conservation Group, formerly known as the Cumberland Conservation Group, was formed in December 2022 to fight methane plants and pipelines in Cumberland.

The group’s formation was sparked by an emergency meeting held at the Cumberland Furnace Community Center in July 2022, attended by more than 50 local residents.

Community groups still meet monthly. With continued support from Appalachian Voices and the Sierra Club, Tri-County Preservation Group has continued to expand its base, develop strategy, and raise awareness about proposed gas construction.

Prepare for pipeline hazards

Honeycutt said Dickson County lacks adequate water infrastructure to deal with a pipeline explosion. “A lot of the pipelines have very little water supply where they go,” Honeycutt said. “The water mains are all really small. They’re overused. Here in our county, we’re experiencing rapid growth, but the water supply is dire.”

Bob Baird said TVA has ignored the fears of residents near the pipeline route.

“They’ve been talking and contacting people whose properties are directly affected by the digging, but for us here in the blast zone, they just ignored us.” says Baird.

Honeycutt said the pipeline also puts an undue burden on local first responders. Volunteer departments are typically understaffed and underfunded. Honeycutt, now retired from the department, explains that the annual budget covered little more than the cost of mandatory equipment testing.

The volunteer sector also faces challenges in receiving adequate training for special hazards such as pipeline explosions.Most training takes place during weekdays when volunteers are active
their regular job.

“I would suggest that if we are going to put a pipeline through our region, we need to fund a full-time firefighter in every fire department that the pipeline goes through,” Honeycutt said. “Not only does this increase the likelihood of incidents occurring on the pipeline, but it also helps reduce response times across the area. It also helps reduce response times across the area, as many rural areas have long wait times for ambulances to arrive. , could also provide first responders in medical emergencies.”

Honeycutt noted that the pipeline would pass right by the Clay Lick Volunteer Fire Department, which would likely be destroyed if an explosion were to occur in that area. This could not only result in loss of life, but also the destruction of buildings, trucks, and the equipment contained within.

Honeycutt predicts that the likelihood of disaster will increase over time.

“It will always be there for future generations,” he says. “And the longer it goes on, the more likely it is that an incident will occur.”

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