Thursday, January 8, 2009

Cause an environmental disaster and charge your customers for it, that's the TVA way

I didn't do this. Neither did anyone else I know.

This was a TVA failure.

Depending on whose voodoo accounting you want to rely on, TVA had a net income of maybe $467 million and paid out several million in bonuses to executives.

But we have to pay for their mistakes and downright incompetence.

Our criminal government and their tentacles squeeze the life out of people.

The Nashville news is reporting that charities aiding people who can't pay their electric bill are out of money.

Many people are trying to conserve and keep the bills down but the frugality is offset by the 27% increase in rates in 2008. Going any further for some means always wearing heavy winter coats and gloves in the house and keeping the heat cut way down, if the electricity is not already cut off.

For those who may not know, TVA is a U.S. government entity.
The captive TVA customers paying for TVA's screw ups seems like another crime against humanity to me.

Once again brought to you by your 'We're Here To Help' government.


Ratepayers are on the hook for cleanup of toxic ash site

By Anne Paine and Bill Theobald • THE TENNESSEAN • January 8, 2009

TVA's ratepayers will be saddled with the cost to clean up a massive coal ash slide at an East Tennessee power plant, the agency's chairman said.

The tab, likely to be tens of millions of dollars or more, will include the cost of extra workers, overtime pay, heavy machinery, and housing and supplies for families chased from their homes, along with the lawsuits that have begun to pile up.

"This is going to get into rates sooner or later," Tennessee Valley Authority Chairman Bill Sansom told The Associated Press on Wednesday. "We haven't even thought about going to Washington for it."

Washington is where Sansom will be today, as Tom Kilgore, the agency's chief executive, testifies about the spill at a Senate hearing that brings TVA's operations into their first high-profile scrutiny by Congress in more than a decade.

Also testifying will be Stephen Smith, a longtime TVA watchdog who heads the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, and William Rose, director of emergency management services for Roane County.

The equivalent of more than 1 billion gallons of coal ash sludge cascaded Dec. 22 in a dark avalanche from an aboveground, ash-walled storage structure at the Kingston coal-burning power plant.

When a wall ruptured, the waste barreled out, damaging homes, knocking over trees and power lines and filling two inlets of the nearby Emory River.

The slide has turned into a rallying point for activists, many of whom want national regulation of coal ash ponds and question industry talk of developing "clean" coal for the nation's energy future.

Several residents who live not far from TVA's coal-burning plant also have traveled to Washington to lobby their lawmakers with Smith.

"I want to be part of the solution, to get this mess cleaned up," said Melinda Hillman. "We lived in a little bit of paradise and now it is unbelievable what has been done."

Much of the gray ash covering almost 300 acres is being sprayed with liquid fertilizer and seeds to try to stop what could be lung-damaging ash particles from drying and going airborne as the cleanup continues.

Lab work on water and ash samples has shown elevated levels of arsenic, lead, thallium and other substances.

State and federal environmental officials say testing shows that drinking water supplies are safe and that treatment plants would remove these materials if they entered the water intakes.

Hillman, who has lived in the area for eight years, said an independent investigation is needed to determine why the pond wall failed.

Forty area families have joined a pending lawsuit along with several environmental groups, demanding that federal courts levy fines and assure the community is made whole.

A TVA official had said earlier that insurance covers such accidents, but just how much had not been determined.

"We are primarily self- insured, but we also have some insurance policy carriers," agency spokesman John Moulton said Wednesday. "It's too early to tell what the impact on rates might be."

Ash pond spills and leaks elsewhere in the country — some smaller than the one at Kingston — have resulted in cleanups of more than $35 million and lawsuits with settlements of $25 million and more.

Tough hearings likely

Pointed questions are expected at today's hearing, scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. CST.

The Environment and Public Works Committee is led by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who has pushed an aggressive environmental agenda since she took over as chairwoman in 2007. She supported efforts late last year to keep tighter environmental regulations in place for coal-fired power plants.

Kilgore, the CEO and president of TVA, was not available for an interview. But agency spokesman Moulten said Kilgore and Sansom were scheduled to meet before the hearing with the TVA Caucus — members of Congress who represent areas to which TVA provides electricity. That's virtually all of Tennessee and parts of six other Southern states.

Moulten said Kilgore's Senate testimony would emphasize cleanup efforts.

"Our focus is entirely on recovery," Moulten said.

The last major confrontation between TVA leaders and Congress came in the 1990s, when the agency gave up the annual appropriations that had covered the costs of management of the Tennessee River system and economic development projects.

Today, TVA, a federal corporation, finances all its flood control, power generation and recreation operations from the sale of electricity.

Groups call for change

Local and international environmental groups homed in on the spill when it occurred.

The Environmental Integrity Project, along with Earthjustice, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and the United Mountain Defense, held a teleconference Wednesday, releasing federal data about nearly 100 largely unregulated wet landfills nationwide that hold arsenic and other potentially toxic substances, like TVA's Kingston facility.

Heavy metals found in coal can concentrate in the ash when it's burned, and even more ash is created as pollution controls are tightened on power plants.

The groups object to mixing the dry ash with water to move it into ponds. They want dry landfills, recycling of the materials and regulations requiring liners to protect groundwater.

"This issue has been a sleeper," said Jeff Stant, with the Environmental Integrity Project. "It's not a glamorous issue. It's been dumped where people are poor or aren't members of environmental groups."

High stakes and glamour, however, are part of it now — along with the potential for huge claims for class-action damages.

Erin Brockovich, who was made a celebrity by the Julia Roberts movie about a community's fight against contaminated water, and a New York law firm are coming to meet victims this week.


Senators promise greater oversight of TVA

WASHINGTON -- The chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee promised Thursday stronger oversight of all operations of the Tennessee Valley Authority in the wake of a giant spill of coal ash sludge in east Tennessee.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said at a committee hearing that she wrongly assumed that TVA was operating properly.

"I'm sorry. I really should have (paid more attention to TVA). That's over, " Boxer said.


Does this oversight mean the customers, the public, the ones who can least afford it still have to pay for the clean up?

Of course, it's our fault for using all of that electricity.


Will we get another movie out of this?

Celebrity Advocate Arrives At Ash Spill

Posted: Jan 8, 2009 07:53 PM

LENOIR CITY, Tenn. (AP) -- Celebrity environmental advocate Erin Brockovich arrived with a New York City legal team at the scene of a billion-gallon coal sludge disaster in Tennessee, and a class-action lawsuit is sure to follow.

Brockovich, made famous by Julia Roberts' Oscar-winning performance in the 2000 eponymous movie, told a news conference Thursday she came because dozens of community members asked for her help in the wake of the Dec. 22 ash pond breach at the Kingston Fossil Plant.

"And that is what we are going to do," said Robin Greenwald, who heads environmental litigation at Weitz & Luxenberg.

The Kingston City Council has passed a resolution urging residents to wait and give local governments time to work on their behalf.

But Brockovich said people want answers and relief now. more


Also see previous reports:

TVA dike break - Tennessee's Exxon Valdez

TVA Ash Spill Radioactive?

Mountain Removal - Coal for Electricity

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