News | March 14, 2024

TVA’s South Memphis gas plans continue legacy of injustice

The TVA Allen gas plant in Memphis is one of the authority's already-operating methane gas plants. (Credit: Nancy Pierce)

The Tennessee Valley Authority – a federal agency and the nation’s largest public utility – is currently planning to build a new, dirty, gas plant near predominantly Black neighborhoods in South Memphis, a proposal that threatens to worsen the utility’s long and ongoing pollution in the community and would undermine the Biden administration’s important environmental justice goals. 

Decades of industrial pollution have taken an incredible toll on our neighborhoods.

Keshaun Pearson, Memphis Community Against Pollution

TVA’s proposed Allen Gas Project would sit in South Memphis, near neighborhoods like Boxtown and Westwood, and would pollute the air with harmful chemicals like formaldehyde and nitrogen oxides.   

South Memphis is sadly no stranger to being burdened with more than its fair share of industrial pollution, and this plant would just be the latest dirty facility to move into the community’s backyard. Families living in these neighborhoods are surrounded by industrial facilities that pollute the air and water, including an oil refinery, a steel mill, and even another large TVA gas plant.  

Tell President Biden to protect Memphis from fossil fuel pollution.

“Communities in South Memphis face cancer rates that are four times the national average and have a failing grade when it comes to air quality,” says KeShaun Pearson, President of Memphis Community Against Pollution. “Federal agencies like the Tennessee Valley Authority should be helping us fight for environmental justice, not pumping more pollution into the air.”

TVA is a major contributor to this ongoing legacy of injustice. For decades, TVA burned coal at the now-retired Allen Fossil Plant, pumping toxic chemicals like mercury, lead, and sulfur dioxide into the air.

Even though the coal plant is closed, it continues to impact nearby neighborhoods. In 2021, TVA began trucking millions of tons of its coal ash – a toxic byproduct of burning coal – through South Memphis neighborhoods, a process that will create air pollution, noise pollution, and public safety impacts for the next decade. The federal utility also already operates a large dirty gas plant that emits pollution that can aggravate asthma and other lung diseases in nearby communities. 

“Families in South Memphis have been dealing with TVA’s pollution for far too long,” Pearson said. “It’s past time for TVA to step up and finally be a good neighbor to the communities it serves, and to do that it needs to scrap these reckless gas plans.” 

A community on the front lines of climate change 

Boxtown resident Clyde Robinson at a rally in opposition to the Byhalia Pipeline at Alonzo Weaver Park. (Photo: Steve Jones)

The proposal is just the latest step in TVA’s massive, multi-billion-dollar spending spree. The federal utility has either planned, proposed, or built seven other gas plants in communities throughout its footprint. These plants will release huge amounts of climate-warming gases.  

A recent study showed that Memphis is among the most climate vulnerable communities in the nation, and Memphians are already dealing with deadly heatwaves, increased flooding, and more extreme storms.  

“Neighborhoods in South Memphis, like many other communities of color, are on the front lines of climate change,” SELC Senior Attorney Amanda Garcia said. “TVA’s giant gas buildout – which is one of the largest in the nation – will worsen the climate crisis, making the climate impacts already confronting Memphis families more frequent and severe.” 

The time to take action 

TVA’s gas plant proposal ignores cleaner and cheaper energy options and fails to take advantage of billions of dollars of federal clean energy incentives. Instead of doubling down on gas, TVA should invest in a diverse portfolio of clean energy sources – like solar power, wind power, and energy efficiency – that are better for the climate, for customers, and for South Memphis communities.  

Federal agencies like the Tennessee Valley Authority should be helping us fight for environmental justice, not pumping more pollution into the air.

KeShaun Pearson, Memphis Community Against Pollution President

The good news is that TVA’s South Memphis gas plans aren’t final. There is still an opportunity for community members to fight for a cheaper and cleaner energy alternative. 

Sign the petition now to urge the Biden administration to stand up for environmental and climate justice in South Memphis by demanding TVA scrap its dangerous and dirty gas plant proposal and invest in cleaner and cheaper power instead.

Help South Memphis say no to new gas.