Tennessee: Groups protest TVA ash spills

Tennessee: Groups protest TVA ash spills

January 20th, 2009 by Pam Sohn in Local Regional News

Members of environmental groups Earthfirst and United Mountain Defense on Monday protested TVA's ash spills and the utility's method of running coal plants.

Convening nonviolent demonstrations in Chattanooga, Knoxville, Nashville and Johnson City, the protesters wanted to draw more attention to what they called TVA's "irresponsible" use and disposal of coal and coal waste, said James Cane, a member of Earthfirst who held signs and talked to passers-by in front of the TVA building in Chattanooga.

"This should be a simple problem, but it's not - not the way TVA is handling it," said Mr. Cane, an engineering grad student. "We're a small group," he said motioning around him, "but we believe we're like the tip of the iceberg and there are lots of people out there who feel this way."

About 10 people came for Monday's demonstration, but only seven or eight held signs and spoke. Some passers-by stopped to listen, others smiled and walked on.

Mr. Cane and another group member, Amanda Cagle, said the seven-state agency should convert wet ash disposal to dry ash storage and recycling.

TVA officials have said utility workers and contractors are working daily to clean up the ash spills in Kingston, Tenn., and Stevenson, Ala. They also have said they are working hard to reduce emissions from coal-burning power plants.

TVA spokeswoman Amy Strickland Tate said Monday the utility complies with air quality standards and requirements.

"While TVA is working to increase the amount of carbon-free generation we use, about 60 percent TVA's generation comes from coal. ... Both NOx (Nitrogen Oxide) and SO2 (sulfur dioxide) emissions are about 80 percent below previous levels," she said.