News briefs from around Tennessee at 1:58 a.m. EDT

Friday, May 9, 2014

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GOP split breaking down, tea party power wanes

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - It’s too early to say the tea party’s over.

But with a Senate majority in reach, the Republican Party and its allies are using campaign cash, positions of influence and other levers of power to defuse what they consider challenges by weak conservative candidates before the 2014 midterm elections and the 2016 presidential race. The party is cherry picking other candidates, including some who rode the tea party wave to a House majority in 2010. Some of those lawmakers are getting boosts from the very establishment the class vowed to upend.

It all adds up to an expensive and sweeping effort by national and state Republicans to blur the dividing line between factions that many believe cost the GOP the Senate majority and prolonged the 2012 presidential nomination fight. “We can’t expect to win if we are fighting each other all the time,” said Matt Borges, chairman of the Ohio Republican Party.

This year, Republicans are within six seats of controlling the Senate. If they win Senate control and keep their House majority, even deeper frustrations would await President Barack Obama in his final two years in office.

By changing rules at the presidential level and showering money and support on candidates in North Carolina, Georgia, Michigan and more states, Republican leaders are trying to drum out tea party-approved candidates they consider flawed - like ones who were seen as costing the GOP winnable Senate seats in Delaware, Missouri and Nevada in recent years.

“It makes sense to get control of the process,” said Borges, who was attending the national Republicans’ meeting in Memphis this week where officials were rewriting the rules on presidential debates.

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TVA expects decision on Allen plant this year

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - The Tennessee Valley Authority’s president and CEO says the utility expects to decide the future of the coal-fired Allen Fossil Plant in Memphis sometime this year.

Bill Johnson spoke with reporters Thursday after the TVA’s board meeting in Memphis.

Johnson said the TVA will field public comment on the power plant’s future before a decision is made about whether to convert it to a gas-operated facility or retire it and replace it with a new gas plant.

The Allen plant generates about 4.8 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity a year, enough for 340,000 homes. The TVA says the plant consumes about 7,200 tons of coal daily.

Environmentalists say the Allen plant causes an air pollution hazard and it should be shut down and replaced with a facility that generates cleaner energy.

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