Cooper: TVA should go the extra mile

Cooper: TVA should go the extra mile

December 14th, 2018 by Clint Cooper in Opinion Free Press

Workers uncoil line at the base of a new TVA transmission tower in 2011.

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.

A battle with Tennessee Valley Authority is probably not one Chattanooga businessman Greg Vital is going to win, but it's one he believes is worth making. And we don't disagree with his premise.

Vital, the well-known co-founder of a company that develops assisted living and senior health care facilities, says TVA didn't adequately prepare for its infrastructure needs or properly inform neighbors before launching plans for its proposed $300 million power control center near Georgetown in Meigs County.

Now, he says, TVA wants to enter his farm property in southern Meigs County to gauge plans for placing a high-voltage transmission line there that will serve the new control center.

Vital says the public utility offered him a dollar to gain access to his property but has not provided any "defining scope or durational limits" of that access. The property needed for the line, he said, is to be seized through eminent domain, and the order to do so was made, according to a court filing, "before Mr. Vital entered the case and had an opportunity to respond."

To stop TVA from entering his property, the Chattanooga businessman filed suit in federal court.

Like many government entities, the federal utility has the right to condemn and take property for the public good (with compensation) to facilitate its services. A spokesman for the utility says only one mile of new right of way is needed for the five-mile transmission line. The rest, he says, would use existing right of way.

Vital's lawsuit says the power control center was planned for the area "without public announcement," but a TVA spokesman says a public information meeting was held, right-of-way owners or their representatives were consulted, and whatever questions came up were answered.

In the case of such a large project, though, we would like to have seen the utility go overboard in its transparency with all owners. If that meant waiting a day, a week or a month to file papers, so be it.

Vital says he understands the need for TVA to modernize its power reliability, and we certainly understand its desire for improved security with the power grid upgrade, but we would like to think the lines of communication — especially about something as touchy as eminent domain — should be clearer, easier and better than they were when TVA initially began to seize land for its vast power distribution system in the 1930s.

In time, a federal court may not decide the utility "has become all too comfortable with its power" or its action in this case is a "careless wielding of power," as the lawsuit and the plaintiff's attorney say, but maybe the exercise at least will prompt TVA to be more forthcoming in similar future proposals.

Getting Started/Comments Policy

Getting started

  1. 1. If you frequently comment on news websites then you may already have a Disqus account. If so, click the "Login" button at the top right of the comment widget and choose whether you'd rather log in with Facebook, Twitter, Google, or a Disqus account.
  2. 2. If you've forgotten your password, Disqus will email you a link that will allow you to create a new one. Easy!
  3. 3. If you're not a member yet, Disqus will go ahead and register you. It's seamless and takes about 10 seconds.
  4. 4. To register, either go through the login process or just click in the box that says "join the discussion," type your comment, and either choose a social media platform to log you in or create a Disqus account with your email address.
  5. 5. If you use Twitter, Facebook or Google to log in, you will need to stay logged into that platform in order to comment. If you create a Disqus account instead, you'll need to remember your Disqus password. Either way, you can change your display name if you'd rather not show off your real name.
  6. 6. Don't be a huge jerk or do anything illegal, and you'll be fine.

Chattanooga Times Free Press Comments Policy

The Chattanooga Times Free Press web sites include interactive areas in which users can express opinions and share ideas and information. We cannot and do not monitor all of the material submitted to the website. Additionally, we do not control, and are not responsible for, content submitted by users. By using the web sites, you may be exposed to content that you may find offensive, indecent, inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise objectionable. You agree that you must evaluate, and bear all risks associated with, the use of the Times Free Press web sites and any content on the Times Free Press web sites, including, but not limited to, whether you should rely on such content. Notwithstanding the foregoing, you acknowledge that we shall have the right (but not the obligation) to review any content that you have submitted to the Times Free Press, and to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content that we determine, in our sole discretion, (a) does not comply with the terms and conditions of this agreement; (b) might violate any law, infringe upon the rights of third parties, or subject us to liability for any reason; or (c) might adversely affect our public image, reputation or goodwill. Moreover, we reserve the right to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content at any time, for the reasons set forth above, for any other reason, or for no reason. If you believe that any content on any of the Times Free Press websites infringes upon any copyrights that you own, please contact us pursuant to the procedures outlined in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (Title 17 U.S.C. § 512) at the following address:

Copyright Agent
The Chattanooga Times Free Press
400 East 11th Street
Chattanooga, TN 37403
Phone: 423-757-6315