Health Impact Assessment of the Shawnee Fossil Power Plant (2014)

Why an HIA of the Shawnee Fossil Plant? 
KEF’s latest Health Impact Assessment examines the Shawnee Fossil Plant near Paducah, Kentcky. 

TVA’s 60 year old coal-fired power plant in western Kentucky

The energy industry has played a significant role in the development of McCracken County, Kentucky. The Shawnee Fossil Plant has provided employment for thousands of workers over the course of its 60 years of operation, contributing to the economy through employee wages and funds paid to the state in lieu of taxes. 

However, across the country, aging power plants like Shawnee must determine best next steps for operations in order to both meet the EPA’s new health-based standards and compete in the shifting energy economy.

The HIA of the Shawnee Fossil Plant assesses and identifies the range of health outcomes that may be affected through potential retrofit or retirement decisions at the TVA facility, and determines recommendations that can help mitigate those concerns.

Prioritizing Health-Based Decision Making
Conversations around energy production and health are both critical and complex. Just as employment and a strong economy play into social factors of health including access to income for housing, nutrition and health insurance, environmental factors such as air and water quality can affect rates of asthma, heart disease, low birth weight, and cancer. 

Using tools like HIA to prioritize health in decision-making makes good financial sense. Reducing rates of asthma and heart attacks can lead to significant savings in health care costs. Saving energy through efficiency measures can cut emissions and reduce spending. Long term strategic plans that address both jobs and a healthy environment can ease transitions in employment and lead to stronger, healthier, more sustainable communities.

The Shawnee Fossil Plant Health Impact Assessment and its recommendations are designed to consider such decision making in a holistic manner. By addressing components of each decision as they relate to others, and ensuring that health remains both a visible element and a priority in decision-making, the comprehensive approach may ultimately lead to better health and economic viability for the plant’s surrounding communities. 

Read the Full Study

Press Materials and Additional Information

  • Executive Summary
  • Sponsor Information–This HIA was part of the Health Impact Project, made possible by the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
  • [needs updated staff information]  For questions about the study, you may contact Deborah Payne, MPH and Primary Researcher at 1-859-986-0868 (office), 1-859-353-7577 (cell), or at For general questions, contact Shelly Biesel, Communications Coordinator, at 1-502-424-2644, or at

Key Findings

Findings of the Shawnee Fossil Plant HIA cover a wide range of concerns from economic to environmental health. This HIA is broken into four categories of investigation, addressing health as it relates to employment, the local economy, air quality, and water quality. Just as decision-making is complex, each scenario must be considered in relationship to other scenarios. Taking into account all potential impacts resulting from a particular scenario can help decision-makers alleviate health concerns regardless of the action. 

  • Employment and Health
  • Local Economy and Health
  • Air Quality
  • Water Quality