published Sunday, January 11th, 2009

Tennessee: Costly spill cleanup spurs debate over who pays

  • photo
    Staff Photo by Patrick Smith
    A home in the Swan Pond Lake Road community which was surrounded with several feet of sediment has now been cleaned off after the TVA coal ash spill on Dec. 22. The United Mountain Defense organization continues to providing their own testing records to help concerned citizens weary of TVA's information.
Audio clip

Zach Wamp

Audio clip

Bob Corker

PDF: Ash health study

PDF: Swan Pond ash report

Article: Health report on ash spill disputed

Article: 1 year later: Digging out of the ashes

PDF: Kingston timeline

Article: Coal ash disaster prompts TVA to restructure

Article: Ash spill area residents still angry one year later

PDF: TVA notice of winning performance payments

PDF: Richard Moore testimony

PDF: Tom Kilgore testimony

PDF: Lessons Learned

PDF: TVA Stakeholder Letter

Article: TVA sending ash to 2 sites

PDF: Ash load test letters

PDF: Kingston ash facts

Article: Study links cancer rate, coal ash landfills

Article: Ash cleanup price tag nears $1 billion

PDF: TVA quarterly report

PDF: TVA coal plant emissions

PDF: Tom Kilgore

Article: 100 days later, ash spill questions linger for Tennessee Valley Authority

Article: Kingston ash spill site roads reopening

Article: Chattanooga : Tests show no sign of ash spill

PDF: TVA Corrective Action Plan

Article: Tennessee Valley Authority may end ash ponds in Kingston

Article: Tennessee: Brockovich firm files ash spill lawsuit

Article: Tennessee: Coal ash regulation bill pushed in wake of TVA spill

PDF: TVA ash cleanup plan

Article: Tennessee: Costs mount for Kingston ash cleanup

Article:Tennessee: Kingston ash spill prompts 2nd congressional hearing

PDF: TVA ash cleanup plan

PDF: Ash removal facts

Article:Tennessee Valley Authority to dredge Emory River to remove ash

PDF: TVA executive changes

Article:Tennessee Valley Authority shakes up executive staff

Article: Tennessee: Grassroots ash effort grows Internet roots

Article: Tennessee: Study suggests coal ash spill health risk

PDF: Duke University study

Article: Tennessee: Lawmakers push federal aid for TVA spill cleanup

PDF: TVA Ocoee Plans

Coal ash: What states and plants are putting into pond

Article: Tennessee Valley Authority plan changes Ocoee controls

Article: Tennessee: Decisions on ash spill cleanup still up in air

Article:Video: Residents react one month after spill

Article:Tennessee: Tests show no fly ash toxins in river water

Article: Tennessee: Groups protest TVA ash spills

Article: Tennessee: Polk votes to post warnings on Ocoee

PDF: Polk County Commission resolution

Article:Tennessee: More scrubbers ordered for Widows Creek plant

PDF: federal court order

Video: TVA spill prompts local water testing

PDF: Bredesen Announces Order Formalizing Cleanup and Compliance Proceeds

PDF: TVA Ocoee Dam

PDF: Order issued

Article: Tennessee: Widows Creek ash may be more toxic than Kingston’s

Article: Tennessee: Costly spill cleanup spurs debate over who pays

Article: Tennessee: Groups urge more regulations on coal ash

Article: Tennessee: Early warnings on ash pond leaks

Article: Tennessee: Environmental groups prepare to sue TVA

Article: Tennessee: Early warnings on ash pond leaks

Article:Tennessee: Brockovich aids ash victims

Article:Tennessee: Senate panel blasts TVA over Kingston ash spill

PDF: Kingston Senate Hearing Testmony

Article: Tennessee: Groups urge more regulations on coal ash

PDF: NASA satellite photo

Article: Kingston: TVA watchdog to review Kingston ash spill

Article:Lawsuit planned against TVA over Kingston coal ash spill

Article:Corker says ash spill should be 'wake-up call' for state and federal agencies

Article:Kingston: TVA watchdog to review Kingston ash spill

Article:Lawsuit planned against TVA over Kingston coal ash spill

Article: Kingston cleanup (video)

PDF: 2008 dike inspection report

Article: Early warnings on ash pond leaks

Article: Farmers worried TVA doesn’t understand their concerns

Article: Tennessee: Community awaits answers

Article: Tennessee: Spill cleanup shifts focus away from emissions

Article:Tennessee Valley Authority spill could endanger sturgeon

Article: Tennessee Valley Authority to spread grass seed at Kingston coal ash spill site

PDF: EPA Testing Results

Article: Metal levels at ash spill exceed TVA's measure

Editorial Cartoon: Clean Coal

PDF: TVA incident action plan 01/01/09

PDF: Preliminary TVA Ash Spill Sample Data

Video: Ash spill clean up

Video: Ash spill demolition

Video: Ash spill aftermath

Article: Tennessee-American tests water following Kingston plant spill

Article: Tennessee: Governor says state will toughen oversight on TVA facilities

PDF: Chattanooga_Water_Quality

PDF:Ash spill

Article:Tennessee: Corps to dredge river to clear coal ash spill

Article:Tennessee: Questions persists on spill

PDF: Berke TVA Spill

PDF: Wamp Statement on Kingston

PDF: EPA Statement on Ash Release

Article:Tennessee Valley Authority vows to clean up spill,

Article:Tennessee Valley Authority boosts estimate from coal ash spill

Article: First tests show water safe after ash deluge

Article: Cleanup begins in wake of ash pond flood

Article: Tennessee: Cleanup begins in wake of ash pond flood

Article: TVA dike bursts in Tennessee, flooding 8-10 homes

The collapse of an ash impoundment that destroyed a handful of houses near TVA’s Kingston Fossil Plant last month likely will hit the pocketbooks of nearly 8 million electricity users across the Tennessee Valley this year.

And if two Tennessee lawmakers have their way, the cleanup and compensation costs from America’s worst coal plant spill could spread to all U.S. taxpayers.

The cleanup operations by TVA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Kingston are expected to take months to complete and, officials say they still don’t have any estimate of the total cleanup costs.

Every $100 million of extra expenses for TVA will cost electric ratepayers an extra 1 percent in higher power bills. In the past year, TVA electric rates already have jumped by more than 25 percent — even after a 6 percent fuel cost reduction last week — primarily because of higher coal and natural gas prices.

But U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp and U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, both Tennessee Republicans, want to hold down rate increases that may come from the Kingston spill by turning to Uncle Sam for relief.

“If it’s possible to get federal funds to help the ratepayers pay the bills, I’ll work on it,” said Sen. Alexander, who pledged to try to get federal assistance for TVA either through the upcoming stimulus package or other federal appropriations.

Rep. Wamp said the heavy rains that contributed to the Dec. 22 Kingston ash pond spill could be considered like Hurricane Katrina, which yielded more than $100 billion of relief for Louisiana and Mississippi. Furthermore, he said TVA power users are having to shoulder the expense of land and water stewardship borne in other parts of the country by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“We have the only system in the country with TVA that has three missions together: land and water management, economic development and power production,” Rep. Wamp said. “In the past, we got appropriated dollars for TVA stewardship programs, but TVA ratepayers now must bear all of that responsibility. To me, it’s simply a matter of equity and fairness.”

Sen. Alexander, who previously served as co-chairman of the TVA Congressional Caucus, which met with TVA officials last week, insisted that the federal utility must clean up the Kingston spill, “make whole all the people who were hurt, and do everything possible to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

CONGRESSIONAL CLASH

Tennessee’s other U.S. senator, Republican Bob Corker, of Chattanooga, agrees that TVA “has to fully clean up this mess.”

But TVA will have to pay for the cleanup and any changes to how plants handle coal ash, he said.

“It would be totally inappropriate” to try to include help for TVA in the upcoming fiscal stimulus plan, he said.

“If something happens at Duke Power or Florida Power, I would expect those utilities to deal with that,” Sen. Corker said. “I talked with Tom Kilgore and TVA has no plans to ask for any federal involvement, and I certainly have no plans to ask for any federal involvement. I hate it for the ratepayers of TVA, but this is their responsibility.”

TVA Chairman Bill Sansom acknowledged that costs of the ash pond cleanup will show up in rates “sooner or later” in an interview with Associated Press.

For now, TVA President Tom Kilgore said he isn’t paying much attention to the price tag for utility employees and contractors working around the clock to clear ash-covered roads, rail lines and farms and preparing to dredge the Emory River of mounds of ash left from the spill.

“Our focus right now is on cleaning up the spill,” Mr. Kilgore told a Senate panel last week. “TVA will do a first-rate job of remediation.”

BEYOND CLEANUP

But after a second leak from a TVA coal plant ash pond last week in Alabama, TVA could be forced to do far more than just clean up what was spilled from wet ash ponds in Kingston and Widows Creek. Congressional leaders and environmental activists are pushing TVA and other utilities to phase out their wet ash disposal systems in favor of more costly dry ash recovery and recycling.

U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, said last week he may draft legislation for stricter federal controls over ash disposal at TVA and other utilities.

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works, also pledged to push the Environmental Protection Agency to adopt new controls over coal ash disposal.

“The current situation is unacceptable,” Sen. Boxer said Friday after TVA revealed its second ash spill in 18 days.

TVA balked a few years ago at replacing its wet ash storage system at the Kingston plant with a dry ash disposal process estimated to cost at least $25 million. But Sen. Boxer said TVA’s decision to stick with what turned out to be faulty ash ponds at Kingston will cost far more in cleanup expenses.

If TVA is required to change its ash pond systems at six coal plants, the conversions easily could cost more than $100 million.

“There is no way TVA is going to get through this for less than a $100,000, and it will probably cost ($200,000) to $300,000,” said Stephen Smith, executive director for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, a Knoxville environmental leader who has been a watchdog of TVA for years. “Coal is dirty and, increasingly, it is going to be more expensive.”

Despite the disaster in Kingston, coal industry leaders contend that coal ash ponds, in general, have had an excellent record and some coal industry critics are exaggerating the risks of fly ash.

“This is a very unfortunate incident in Kingston, but it is a very isolated event among the hundreds of plants that dispose of coal ash every day,” said David Goss, executive director of the American Coal Ash Association.

Mr. Goss said he believes over time coal power plants can convert from wet ash ponds to dry ash recovery and recycling into products such as Portland cement and agricultural soil mixtures.

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