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TVA Board Approves Budget, Rate Increase

Press release from the Tennessee Valley Authority; August 22, 2013:

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. ― The Tennessee Valley Authority board of directors approved a $10.5 billion fiscal year 2014 budget at its meeting Thursday and a 1.5 percent retail rate increase – TVA’s first increase in two years.

Less than the economy’s modest growth in inflation since TVA’s last rate increase in 2011, the rate adjustment will add about $1.50 to the monthly power bill of a residential consumer using 1,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity.

“While we never like to raise rates, this small adjustment is necessary to meet our 2014 revenue requirements and operate our system safely and reliably,” said TVA President and CEO Bill Johnson. “We will also make critical capital investments to keep reliability high and meet environmental standards and contribute to paying down debt.”

TVA’s fiscal year 2014 budget anticipates 4.6 percent lower sales year over year and is about 6 percent less than 2013, including capital expenditures of $3.3 billion for Watts Bar 2 nuclear plant and clean air controls at Gallatin Fossil Plant.

Johnson said TVA’s priorities include “living within our means” by bringing operations and maintenance expenses in line with recent trends in declining electricity sales and revenues.

“Demand for our product is down and that won’t change anytime soon. The weather, the economy, energy efficiency/demand response, and rate design are all factors,” Johnson said. “We’re working harder than ever to reduce our costs, but they are not declining at the rate of our sales and revenues.”

TVA is executing a plan to reduce O&M costs by $500 million by 2015 with employees and leadership identifying efficiencies, cost reductions and cost avoidance opportunities. Nearly $150 million in reductions have been achieved this fiscal year with plans for an additional $150 million by the end of 2014 and another $200 million in 2015.

“We are taking action to improve TVA’s operations and financial health so it continues to serve the region for years to come,” Johnson said.

Additional priorities include evaluating future operations of the remainder of the coal fleet, preserving the unfinished Bellefonte nuclear plant as an option for future power generation, continuing to explore Small Modular Reactor nuclear technology, promoting economic development in the region and updating the Integrated Resource Plan, the long-term strategy for TVA’s energy supply as they enter FY14.

Johnson said that TVA employees remain focused on delivering outstanding service while carrying out TVA’s unique mission of delivering safe, clean, reliable energy at low rates as well as promoting economic development and providing resource stewardship.

The new budget and rate adjustment go into effect with TVA’s new fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, 2013.

Additional Board Actions

The board also approved new programs to foster economic growth in the Tennessee Valley. The TVA Valley Commitment Program will give credit to manufacturing customers for their ongoing commitment to the Valley. The Small Manufacturing Rate Program will give small industrial customers a rate alternative for operating during off-peak demand periods. These new programs and enhancements are intended to serve as interim measures while TVA works with customers and other stakeholders on a longer-term rate strategy, Johnson said.

In other action, the board:

  • Approved a five-year extension of the Environmental Adjustment; up to $3.5 billion in contracts for fuel and purchased power, and up to $4 billion of long-term bonds.
  • Approved TVA entering contracts for hydroelectric modernization and transmission system construction and modification services.
  • Approved changes to the annual and long-term employee performance goals incentive programs.

The Tennessee Valley Authority is a corporate agency of the United States that provides electricity for business customers and local power distributors serving 9 million people in parts of seven southeastern states. TVA receives no taxpayer funding, deriving virtually all of its revenues from sales of electricity. In addition to operating and investing its revenues in its electric system, TVA provides flood control, navigation and land management for the Tennessee River system and assists local power companies and state and local governments with economic development and job creation.

Feds, States Reach Agreement on TVA Trout Hatchery Operations

Press release from the Tennessee Valley Authority; May 17, 2013:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander and representatives from the Tennessee Valley Authority, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and Georgia Department of Natural Resources announced Friday a new agreement that will continue popular trout stocking programs in reservoirs and tailwaters of certain TVA dams across the region.

TVA will provide more than $900,000 per year for the next three years to support federal fish hatchery operations that provide the trout for stocking. During the three-year timeframe, per an agreement signed by the four agencies, a working group will be formed with key stakeholders who benefit from the recreation-based trout stocking to identify a long-term funding source.

Currently, non-native trout stocked near some of TVA’s dams are raised at three federal fish hatcheries operated by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service: Erwin National Fish Hatchery in Erwin, Tenn.; Dale Hollow National Fish Hatchery in Celina, Tenn.; and Chattahoochee Forest National Fish Hatchery in Suches, Ga.

“Closing Dale Hollow and Erwin would have been a disaster for 900,000 Tennesseans and visitors who bought fishing licenses last year,” Alexander said. “Dale Hollow helps make Tennessee’s rivers and lakes among the most prized trout fisheries in our country. And the Erwin hatchery provides brood stocks for fishing waters across the country.”

The trout are provided to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and Georgia Department of Natural Resources for stocking in the colder water of the reservoirs and tailwaters of the TVA dams. TVA supports the stocking programs by enhancing aquatic habitat through oxygenation systems, foregoing electric generation and providing minimum river flows to help adequately maintain cooler water temperatures. However, in most of the waters, the trout cannot naturally reproduce, requiring regular stocking to maintain fishable populations.

“TVA is voluntarily providing three years of stewardship funding for trout hatchery operations because the agencies involved understand the importance of stocked trout waters to recreation, tourism and local economies,” said Joe Hoagland, TVA senior vice president of Policy and Oversight. “At the same time, the working group being formed to look at ongoing, sustainable funding is critical given TVA’s focus on keeping electric rates low and the budget challenges of all the participating agencies.”

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service greatly appreciates TVA’s dedicated funding for the next three years,” said Cindy Dohner, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s regional director for the Southeast. “We also are encouraged by the commitment by all the agencies to develop a long-term, sustainable funding source for this important conservation, recreational, and economic activity for our citizens.”

Through this three-year hatchery funding agreement, trout will continue to be stocked for recreational fishing in reservoirs or tailwaters at 12 TVA dams in Tennessee and Georgia: Apalachia Dam on the Hiwassee River; Blue Ridge Dam on the Toccoa River; Cherokee Dam on the Holston River; Ft. Patrick Henry Dam on the South Fork Holston River; Normandy Dam on the Duck River; Norris Dam on the Clinch River; Ocoee Dam No. 1 on the Ocoee River; South Holston Dam on the South Fork Holston River; Tellico Dam on the Little Tennessee River; Tims Ford Dam on the Elk River; Watauga Dam on the Watauga River; and Wilbur Dam on the Watauga River.

“The funding of the federal hatchery operations is vital to our agency’s ability to meet the demand for quality trout fishing in Tennessee,” said Ed Carter, executive director of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. “Their continued operation will help continue providing a tremendous recreational activity to thousands of Tennesseans. An associated but very important side benefit is the significant economic boost to local businesses associated with the fishing and outdoor industry.”

“The Blue Ridge Dam-Toccoa River project is a critical trout fishery for our citizens and the economy of the area,” said Dan Forster, director of the Wildlife Resources Division for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. “This agreement provides an important step in addressing the long-term continuation of trout production and stocking associated with this fishery.”

Details on the trout hatchery funding working group are currently being developed. The agencies will be seeking representation, ideas and input from angling groups, local and regional businesses, tourism organizations and the local governments that realize the direct and indirect benefits of having fishable trout waters in their communities.

“This is good news for Tennessee fishermen,” Alexander said of the hatchery agreement. “TVA has helped make sure Tennessee’s rivers and lakes will remain among the most prized trout fisheries in our country.”

Press release from U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.; May 17, 2013:

NASHVILLE, May 17—U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today announced an agreement between TVA and federal and state wildlife agencies that he said will keep open hatcheries that produce 60 percent of the trout stocked in Tennessee rivers and lakes.

During a press conference at the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency headquarters, the senator said that budget woes have threatened to close both the Dale Hollow and Erwin national fish hatcheries. The senator credited TVA’s participation in a three-year agreement with federal and state wildlife agencies with keeping the hatcheries open while a permanent solution is being negotiated.

“Closing Dale Hollow and Erwin would have been a disaster for 900,000 Tennesseans and visitors who bought fishing licenses last year. Dale Hollow helps make Tennessee’s rivers and lakes among the most prized trout fisheries in our country. The Erwin hatchery provides brood stocks for fishing waters across the country.”

For several years Alexander has helped provide funds for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ budget to purchase trout from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to mitigate the loss of fish caused by Corps dams. He is the senior Republican on the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the Corps. TVA will also mitigate for the loss of fish on the Tennessee River system.

Alexander said this had been a week of “good news for Tennessee fishermen.” On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate passed his legislation that would delegate to state wildlife agencies enforcement of safety regulations below Corps of Engineers Dams on the Cumberland River. The senator said he expected the Corps would work with state agencies to create “reasonable regulations that prohibit fishing while water is spilling through the gates of the dams 20 per cent of the time, but allow fishing with appropriate precautions the rest of the time.”

The senator was joined at the press conference by Joe Hoagland, TVA’s senior vice president of policy and oversight; Ed Carter, executive director of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency; Cindy Dohner, regional director, southeast region, of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; and Dan Forster, director, wildlife resources division, of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

TVA Announces Cap Reached for Solar Power Purchasing Program

Press release from the Tennessee Environmental Council; May 1, 2013:

TVA has announced it has reached a “cap” and will not purchase power from new midsized solar power generation systems that small businesses, farmers, and homeowners want to install in the Tennessee Valley. TVA’s Green Power Providers has a “cap” on the amount of electricity it will buy based on the size of the system. Systems which generate between 10 kilowatts and 50 kilowatts will no longer be able to sell electricity at a favorable price to TVA until, and if, the program is reopened at some unspecified future date. The program may not be reopened.

“The capacity limits for this segment of TVA’s renewable energy programs for all of 2013 were met in less than four months. An April 24th press release from TVA touts the program as being very successful, but TVA met their target for these programs much earlier than expected due to poor planning. TVA approved over 250 small-scale, renewable energy projects for their Green Power Providers and Solar Solutions Initiative programs in 2013, but the demand and potential is significantly higher,” said John McFadden, Executive Director of the Tennessee Environmental Council.

The Green Power Providers and Solar Solutions programs are a significant driver for mid-size solar installations in Tennessee. Without these incentives, industry leaders believe the losses to the growing solar industry in Tennessee will cost jobs and money for citizens and businesses. Tennessee, which has climbed to 14th in installed solar capacity in the United States, will fall behind instead of gaining ground.

Lightwave Solar, a Nashville-based solar photovoltaic (PV) system design and installation firm has laid off two employees in 2013 because of softening demand. Gary Wolf of Sundog Solar laments, “If Sundog Solar can’t sign up another customer until January of 2014, I’ll be out of business before the end of the year and my crew, trained in solar at a Tennessee state school, will be out of jobs. An annual program that lasts four months has at least one obvious problem – size. The caps don’t respond to market demand, they force homeowners to compete with commercial interests for solar space, and they undermine job creation and steady employment in one of the nation’s fastest growing sectors.”

“The ill-conceived construction of TVA’s incentive programs for small and mid-sized solar PV systems has created an unnecessary stop and go situation. Sadly, it is homeowners, small businesses and regional solar installers that are disproportionately impacted,” says Michael Levesque, Chief Operations Officer of Sustainable Future, in Knoxville. “Since these programs are the only programs for solar in Tennessee it restricts private citizens and businesses from installing solar power plants. No one is going to build a solar system and provide power to TVA for free, and why should they? People seeking some control over their energy future have no solar alternative.”

“Reaching the TVA Green Power Providers program capacity so early in the year has only negative effects on solar businesses and solar clients. This program should be available to TVA customers all year long,” adds Ed Zubko, Chief Operations Officer, Green Earth Solar, LLC. “Some of the benefits of the TVA Green Power Providers program to customers are: reduced tax liability, predictable return on investment for the more than 25 year life of the system, saving money on electricity for over 25 years, reduction in the amount of CO2 required to operate a business or residence, support for Tennessee companies with some Tennessee made products available.”

Tennessee Chapter Sierra Club Repower America Chair, Mary Mastin, commented, ”It makes no sense for TVA to say it has a cap on how much fuel-cost-free electricity it will buy from folks who pay to have a solar system installed at their, home, business or farm. If folks want to dig into their savings to build generation capacity so TVA does not need to borrow money and build power plants and burn coal or uranium we all win. Solar generates no air or water pollution, no coal ash, and no danger from radiation and nuclear waste. TVA has withdrawn support for valley residents and business who want to invest their own money to go solar and this is contrary to TVA’s mission and goals”

The April 24 TVA press release can be found at: http://www.tva.com/news/releases/aprjun13/2013_renewable.html

TVA Ratepayers Make Up Pension Shortfall

The Tennessee Valley Authority is facing a multibillion-dollar pension shortfall, and it appears the federal utility has been scrambling to shore up the losses with ratepayer cash.

From the Chattanooga Times Free Press:

When investment markets tanked in 2008 and TVA’s pension fund took a nearly $2 billion dive, the tab for making sure there was enough money to cover commitments to 24,000 retirees fell to electric ratepayers. 

Fully funded, TVA’s retirement plan should total $11.5 billion.

Instead, it now stands at $7 billion.

TVA has infused it with almost $1.3 billion since 2009 — ratepayer money.

There’s a bigger problem, though, says Justin Owen with the Beacon Center, a Nashville-based free-market think tank: Pension problem are rampant throughout the country, and politicians are moving too slow to apply fixes.

“The (TVA) story is symptomatic of a larger problem,” Owen said. “What it amounts to us political promises. Now we’re seeing that many of those promises… are empty promises.”

Beacon has studied pension problems across the U.S. recently, looking at how pension bailouts across the nation would affect Tennessee taxpayers.

“We have to stop making these promises in the future,” Owen said. “We can’t afford it.”

He said that public entities need to move to retirement plans similar to the 401(k) plans offered in the private sector.

State Energy Efficiency Projects to Cost $5.25M in First Year

Press Release from Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation; Jan. 11, 2012:

Projects Benefit Both the Environment and Bottom Line

Nashville – Tennessee Deputy Governor Claude Ramsey, Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner Bob Martineau and General Services Commissioner Steven G. Cates today announced a series of energy efficiency projects in state government, as well as the new Clean Tennessee Energy Grant Program. The state projects, as well projects for other public and private entities that will be funded through the grant program, are designed to both increase cost savings and decrease emissions.

“Increasing energy efficiency in state government will help us be even better stewards of both taxpayer dollars and our environment,” Haslam said. “These projects will benefit Tennesseans on both fronts, and I look forward to implementing additional projects as we move forward.”

Funding for the projects comes from an April 2011 Clean Air Act settlement with the Tennessee Valley Authority. Under the Consent Decree, Tennessee will receive $26.4 million over five years to fund clean air programs in the state – at approximately $5.25 million per year. In the first year, $2.25 million will go to fund air quality grants for local governments, municipalities, utilities, other organizations and private entities. The remaining $3 million will fund energy efficiency projects in state government. The first round of state projects was announced today:

· Nissan LEAF Purchases – Tennessee will purchase five Nissan LEAF electric vehicles for the state fleet and will add two charging stations. The cars have zero emissions and are made in Tennessee. Replacing five motor pool vehicles with the electric LEAFs for urban travel will substantially reduce the emissions that can cause adverse health conditions due to air quality non-attainment. Replacing a conventional vehicle with an electric vehicle in a metro area reduces volatile organic compounds and carbon monoxide by 100 percent, sulfur oxides by 75 percent, nitrogen oxides by 69 percent and particulates by 31 percent.

· Tennessee Tower Window Film – The Department of General Services will add reflective film to all exterior windows in the Tennessee Tower to reduce solar radiant heat gain, thereby reducing HVAC energy consumption and increasing occupant comfort. The upfront cost for the window film is $610,000. With an estimated annual energy savings of $362,000, the project is expected to pay for itself in less than two years and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2,451 metric tons per year. The Tennessee Tower was built in 1970, and is the largest state building in Tennessee.

· TDEC Nashville Environmental Field Office HVAC – TDEC will test, adjust and balance the existing HVAC system at its Nashville Environmental Field Office to correct deficiencies and optimize energy usage. The upfront cost for the project is $39,000. With an estimated annual energy savings of $11,100, the project is expected to pay for itself in approximately 3.5 years and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 metric tons per year.

· Fall Creek Falls Inn – Tennessee State Parks will work with Tennessee Tech to install a heat recovery water heater system at the Fall Creek Falls State Park Inn and Conference center in Pikeville. A heat recovery water heater utilizes a dual cycle heat pump to scavenge heat from a recirculating chilled water loop to heat hot water, while simultaneously providing additional chilled water capacity. The upfront cost for the project is $150,000. With an estimated annual energy savings of $73,205, the project is expected to pay for itself in about two years and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 245 metric tons per year.

· Fall Creek Falls Cabins – Tennessee State Parks will convert 30 cabins to utilize geothermal energy at a rate of 10 cabins per year over three years. The upfront cost to convert all 30 cabins is $600,000. With an estimated annual energy savings of $88,552, the total project is expected to pay for itself in just over 6.5 years and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 676 metric tons per year.

“In prioritizing projects, we looked at cost of implementation, energy savings and emissions reductions,” said Martineau. “We will continue to work with the Department of General Services to look for projects that maximize energy efficiency within state government, and I hope that others outside of state government will take part in the grant program so we can spread these benefits even further.”

“We focus on the environmentally conscious design, construction, maintenance and operation of all state assets,” said Cates. “By making intelligent choices today, we prepare our state for a greener tomorrow.”

In addition to the state government projects, the Clean Tennessee Energy Grant Program will provide financial assistance to local governments, utility districts and private businesses and organizations in Tennessee for a variety of projects using innovative technology to reduce energy consumption and emissions. Eligible categories include:

· Cleaner Alternative Energy – biomass, geothermal, solar, wind

· Energy Conservation – lighting, HVAC improvements, improved fuel efficiency, insulation, idling minimization

· Air Quality Improvement – reduction in greenhouse gases, sulfur dioxide, volatile organic compounds, oxides of nitrogen, hazardous air pollutants

A total of $2.25 million will be available in the first round of grants. The maximum grant amount per project is $250,000. Grant applications are available on TDEC’s website at www.tn.gov/environment/energygrants and will be accepted until March 30, 2012. Recipients are expected to be announced by mid-May.

Southerland Holding Out Hope for NE TN Megasite

State Sen. Steve Southerland sounds enthusiastic about the possibility of Upper East Tennessee landing a TVA megasite like the ones taxpayers provided for Volkswagen and Hemlock Semiconductor.

But the Morristown Republican’s enthusiasm may be more a matter of a legislator cheerleading than an indication of any substantive action. Other officials, including some community leaders in the region itself, say they see no hint of a megasite headed to the area, for a variety of reasons.

State Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty said recently he had heard the subject come up in regard to Upper East Tennessee, but he downplayed the potential.

“In terms of a new large-scale megasite like West Tennessee, I think there is a lot of optimism we might be able to do that in other parts of the state, but there is nothing along that magnitude on the drawing board right now,” Hagerty said.

Alan Palmieri, mayor of Jefferson County, said he has heard the subject raised for his region — but only “for years and years and years.” Mayor Bill Brittain of Hamblen County, which includes Morristown, said this week he has not heard the matter come up.

But in talking to a reporter at a recent event in Morristown, Southerland made it sound like efforts are underway for landing a megasite.

“We’ve got sites in the area that could be a megasite,” Southerland said. “It has a good possibility, because our counties are working together. We know it has to be a joint, regional project.

“We approved three megasites. We’ve got one in West Tennessee, Middle Tennessee and then one in Chattanooga. But we have not received one for Upper East Tennessee. It’s our turn. We spent the money down there. If the people are willing to work together up here and we have somebody wanting to come this way we’re going to go for it.”

Megasites have been noteworthy for several reasons recently. Tennesseans have begun to see the fruits of preparing large tracts of land and infrastructure, with Volkswagen opening its manufacturing plant in Chattanooga and Hemlock making an impact in Montgomery County, including ties with Austin Peay State University.

A third megasite, in Haywood County in West Tennessee, has begun to get more attention from government officials, but it remains vacant.

Gov. Bill Haslam has taken some of the glimmer off the headline-grabbing practice of attracting large businesses to the state, pointing out that most of the job growth comes from existing businesses, not high-profile relocations.

Nevertheless, Haslam has repeatedly said that doesn’t mean the state has abandoned the big relocation approach. At an economic development meeting in Morristown, Haslam said the administration is still ready “to move heaven and earth” to get such investments.

Southerland picked up on that line.

“Just like he said, we’d move heaven and earth to get another Volkswagen here,” Southerland said. “When you look at Hamblen County, we’re like a hub for other counties bringing in automotive jobs.”

Taxpayer bill can reach hundreds of millions of dollars

State and local taxpayers typically can end up contributing hundreds of millions of dollars to the development of a megasite.

In the case of the Enterprise South industrial site that attracted Volkswagen to Hamilton County, the government’s bill, including tax breaks, was estimated in one report at $500 million. Volkswagen made an investment of $1 billion, roughly the amount Hemlock put into the megasite in Montgomery County.

Arrangements for the sites can involve help from federal, state and local governments. After that, the value of the investment is widely open to debate. Economic development officials routinely have said the kinds of businesses attracted by the megasites are giant winners for the locations. But increasingly, questions exist as to the return on the investment in attracting jobs, as states have become highly competitive.

Haslam has expressed surprise at what some companies want in return for creating jobs in Tennessee, although he has said his administration remains interested in attracting the types of investments made by Volkswagen and Hemlock.

“In this state, the funding for the megasites has been a combination of local government money and state government money, with some participation from TVA funding the certification process,” said Clint Brewer, spokesman for the Department of Economic and Community Development.

In Montgomery and Hamilton counties local governments handled the purchase of the land. For the Haywood County megasite, where local governments lack such resources, the state has purchased most of the land. Theoretically, private entities could have to assemble the property at a megasite.

“The local communities pay for the site’s due diligence and improvement, such as environmental reviews, infrastructure improvements, etc.,” said Mike Bradley, of the TVA news bureau in Knoxville, by e-mail Thursday. “This sometimes is done even after the site has been certified as a megasite. The effort is usually championed by a local economic developer.”

The Tennessee General Assembly this year passed legislation (SB1239) to allow the East Tennessee Regional Agribusiness Marketing Authority, or ETRAMA, to issue bonds.

The idea of economic development in the region is to enhance development along the I-81 corridor.

Two issues face the region on infrastructure for business development: hooking up a sewer system to accommodate large capacity and getting connectors in place for major rail lines in the region. Plans for the sewer line would involve trunk lines that would feed wastewater into a plant in Lowland, which is in Hamblen County.

The vacant megasite in Haywood County has 1,720 acres. Another vacant TVA megasite in Hopkinsville, Ky., has 2,100 acres. Those kinds of numbers may work against mountainous Upper East Tennessee.

“I was told years ago because of our geography it’s hard to collect 500 flat acres,” said Rep. Tony Shipley, R-Kingsport. “Maybe we don’t get a megasite. Maybe we get a mega-area.

“The same amount of money is being spent in Chattanooga, West Tennessee and the Nashville basin area. Maybe that same amount of money could come here, because we are distinctly different.”

Palmieri, the Jefferson County mayor, makes a similar observation.

“You look at the land, and you say, ‘Where are you going to locate this?’ Terrain would be part of the process because whatever you do, you’ve got to make it economically feasible. If you’re going to have to go in and take down mountains and blast and everything else, it’s going to add to the cost, which everybody wants to avoid.”

In another way, however, geography is a plus for the region. State and local government officials point to the fact the region is within driving distance of a large portion of the nation’s population.

Like Disney World theme park, talk of megasite ‘just conversation’

Palmieri has heard talk of a megasite but sees little in the way of real progress.

“I know various mayors have talked about it for many years. Various chambers (of commerce) have talked about it. Nothing has really developed outside the fact it’s just conversation,” he said.

“Where would you go? Who’s going to bring in something that massive today? It’s probably been put on the back burner, but it’s been going on for I guess probably the last 10-12 years.”

Southerland sees other factors.

“We know with the earthquake in Japan and the value of the U.S. dollar that Japan will be looking more at investing in the United States in automotive plants. And we’re hoping to get one of whatever comes this way,” Southerland said. “You’ve got to be prepared because when they come they’re going to be looking for somebody that’s already ready to go.”

Palmieri said that for years there was talk that the people from Disney World were going to put a theme park in Cocke County.

“I heard that for 20 years,” he said. “That was a hot one there for awhile. It was going to be just a regular theme park, like a Disneyland or Dollywood. That was before Dolly owned Dollywood.”

But if the region were to get a large plant, Palmieri says the automotive or airline industries would make good sense. He said the area’s workforce, which has experience in production lines, would be good for a manufacturing base.

When asked why the airline industry would be a good fit, Palmieri said, “Everything they have is predominantly in a high-tax area. What they’re having to pay the workforce there is probably three or four times what they could have to pay a workforce here in Jefferson County or East Tennessee.

“Transportation-wise, with the Interstate and everything else, easy access in and out, I can see where they could save a lot of money, and it’d be much more profitable for their company.”

Aircraft maker Boeing has recently been involved in a dispute with the National Labor Relations Board over a plant it plans to build in South Carolina. Palmieri said Tennessee should get a look.

“If Boeing ever took a serious look, they could come in, acquire property and build buildings and have a workforce ready to go, and they would save money almost right off the bat,” he said. “South Carolina is more expensive. They have payroll taxes and everything else. I don’t understand that.

“I have family there. It’s a beautiful state. I can’t stand Steve Spurrier (the South Carolina football coach). But why would you go to South Carolina when Interstate access, transportation needs, centralization, taxes, everything is so much better right here in East Tennessee? I don’t understand that.”

TVA Agrees to Air Quality Settlement

Press Release from the State of Tennesse, April 14, 2011:

State to Receive $26 Million to Fund Clean Air Projects as Result of Agreement with TVA

NASHVILLE – Tennessee is expected to receive more than $26 million to fund energy conservation, alternative energy and/or pollution reduction projects, which will also reduce air pollution as the result of an agreement approved today by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Board of Directors.

The Tennessee Attorney General’s Office, on behalf of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, will join Alabama, Kentucky and North Carolina in filing an agreement today in the form of a consent decree, resolving years of allegations that the utility violated the Clean Air Act. A coalition of citizen groups filed their own complaint, which will be consolidated with the states’ complaint, allowing the citizen groups to join in the agreement with the states.

Tennessee’s agreement coincides with an agreement being filed today between TVA and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). TVA will pay the states and the EPA a combined total of $350 million to fund environmental projects, as well as $10 million in civil penalties. The $350 million is payable over the next five years, and the civil penalties are payable 30 days after the date the agreement is entered by the court. Tennessee will receive the largest state’s share, $26.4 million for environmental projects and $1 million in civil penalties.

“This agreement is important in not only making our air cleaner but it also helps to provide predictability for TVA and its commercial users,” Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said. “This certainty will assist in economic development efforts in the state and region and is a complement to our efforts in making Tennessee’s business climate as attractive for investment as possible.”

The agreement calls for TVA to make improvements throughout its system to reduce air emissions. Specifically, the utility has agreed to reduce air emissions from its 11 coal-fired power plants and retire 18 older units. Ten coal-fired units will be retired at the Johnsonville plant in New Johnsonville, two units at the John Sevier plant in Rogersville and six units at the Widows Creek Fossil plant in North Alabama.

TVA has already been working to update plants with new air pollution control measures for several years and has plans to implement new emissions controls as part of the agreement. The agreement stipulates that emissions such as nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxides will be reduced by more than 48,000 tons per year and 208,000 tons per year, respectively.

“Today’s agreement is the largest of its kind to date,” Attorney General Bob Cooper said. “We are pleased to have helped negotiate this collaborative agreement to resolve this enforcement action that will yield cleaner air and support economic development in our state as well as that of our neighboring states. We appreciate the TVA board’s approval of this resolution.”

Tennessee will file its lawsuit and the consent decree embodying the agreement in the U.S. District Court in Knoxville now that the TVA Board of Directors has approved the agreement at its regular board meeting in Chattanooga today.

In addition to the court agreements with the EPA and other states, the case will conclude actions by the National Park Conservation Association, the Sierra Club and Our Children’s Earth Foundation. The consent decree lodged with the court by the states and the citizen groups, and EPA’s agreement with TVA will be available for public review and comment for 30 days.

Locals Remain Unsatisfied With TVA’s Ground-Zero Recovery, Restitution Efforts

Residents along Swan Pond Road near Harriman still feel the Tennessee Valley Authority has failed to regain their trust, even as TVA officials claim building goodwill with the ground-zero community is a top disaster-recovery effort priority.

Swan Pond is the closest community to the Kingston waste-containment dike failure that released approximately 5.4 million cubic yards of coal ash into the Emory River, and buried more than 300 acres of lake and shoreline on Dec. 22, 2008.

Local activist Randy Ellis, vice chairman of the Roane County Community Advisory Group, said TVA has yet to take the necessary steps to repair strained relations with area citizens.

“I don’t think they have listened to the community,” Ellis said this week. Most of the work the TVA has completed in the area is at best merely cosmetic, he said, and doesn’t really hold up under scrutiny.

“They’re doing what they’ve got to do to cover their tracks,” said Ellis.

Most members of the Swan Pond community have been lifelong residents. And they certainly didn’t ask to be placed in the middle of the largest industrial spill in American history, said Ellis.

“TVA, through negligence, thrust them into this,” Ellis said.

He added that politicians and government officials tend to like boasting about the $43 million that’s made it’s way to Roane County in the wake of the spill. But none of that money has gone to the Swan Pond community, maintains Ellis — and many there lack basic services like sewer and nearby fire protection.

“No steps have been taken to make the community first affected (by the disaster) happy and whole,” said Ellis.

TVA’s Kingston recovery site general manager, Steve McCracken, says rebuilding trust with the community was among the the top priorities of TVA a year ago, and it still is.

“I can tell you there is no end to (rebuilding trust and communication with the community) any time soon that I see, nor do we want there to be,” McCracken said at a joint Tennessee House and Senate Enviroment Committee hearing to discuss the progress at the site on Tuesday. “We all know this was a catastrophic event. There’s great deal of anger and anxiety in the community. It’s our responsibility to get out there and meet people face to face.”

TVA is meeting with local community members and officials, and communicating through email to try to better understand issues of concern facing the community members, and ultimately fix problems, McCracken said.

“Critical to everything is making extensive efforts to reach out to neighbors, recognize their concerns, try to minimize the inevitable inconvenience,” McCracken said. “It’s significant along Swan Pond Road and Swan Pond Circle Road.”

Of the inconveniences area residents must endure are increased and heavy traffic due to the increase of workers, and heavy truck traffic to and from the site, Ellis said.

Asked by a lawmaker during the hearing what was being done to alleviate the railroad crossing delays — which force residents “to wait at a train crossing up to 15 times a day for 15 minutes at a time,” according to Ellis — McCracken said, “We are modifying our rail system at the site as we speak.”

He promised that by the first week of March changes will be made that ensure rail traffic “won’t be impacting that intersection any more.”

“I can tell you that it is irritating,” McCracken acknowledged. “It’s irritating to me.”

Rep. Dennis Ferguson, D-Midtown, encouraged TVA to be a better neighbor to the Swan Pond community, and to see how the residents can be helped.

“That community is the next door neighbor to TVA, and I hope they will go over there and see if there’s something they can do to make those people feel like they’re being taken care of,” he said.

State Health Assessment Of Kingston Ash Spill Site Complete

State Of Tennessee Press Release, Dec. 22, 2009:

Public Comments Accepted Through February 9, 2010

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Health’s (TDH) Environmental Epidemiology Program, under a cooperative agreement with the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), has completed a draft health assessment for Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA) Kingston coal ash spill site and is accepting public comments now through February 9, 2010, it was recently announced. Both the 200-page assessment and a four-page fact sheet summary are available on the department’s Web site.

“We understand local residents’ concern about the potential health implications of the coal ash spill,” said Bonnie Bashor, director of the Environmental Epidemiology Program. “It’s the department’s responsibility and mission to protect the health of the people in Roane County. With this in mind, the department took very seriously the review and analysis of collected data to determine any health risks associated with coal ash exposure.”

Details about the department’s participation in a Roane County community public meeting to answer questions about the draft health assessment will be announced soon. The meeting is anticipated to be held in January 2010.

The fact sheet outlines the public health assessment (PHA) process and next steps, and lists all of the environmental data sets used in writing the PHA. The full public health assessment includes a summary, discussion, conclusions, recommendations and a public health action plan. Environmental data from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC), TVA and others are presented in the report.

Highlights of the conclusions reached in the report are as follows:

  • No harm to the community’s health is expected from touching the coal ash. Even though touching the coal ash could cause local skin irritation, the metals in the ash are not likely to get into people’s bodies from merely touching the coal ash.
  • Using municipal drinking water from the Kingston and Rockwood water treatment plants will not harm people’s health because the raw and finished water have continuously met drinking water standards. Also, using well or spring water within four miles of the coal ash release will not harm people’s health from exposure to coal ash or metals in the coal ash because no evidence has been found for groundwater contamination by coal ash.
  • Using the Emory River at the site of the coal ash release (near Emory River mile 2) could result in harm to residents or trespassers from physical hazards associated with cleanup efforts and from the volume of ash present, if residents or trespassers entered the area. No harm to people’s health should result from recreational use of the Emory, Clinch and Tennessee Rivers outside the area of the lower Emory River down to the confluence of the Emory and Clinch Rivers, as specified in the recreational advisory and river closure. As the advisory indicates, people are advised to avoid areas where they see ash, however, even if it is outside the area of immediate impact. Previous fish advisories should be followed.
  • Breathing ambient air near the coal ash release is not expected to harm people’s health as long as adequate dust suppression measures are in place. No harm to people’s health is expected from occasionally breathing coal ash if it should become airborne for short periods of time. If dust suppression measures should fail and particulate matter is present in concentrations greater than National Ambient Air Quality Standards due to the coal ash becoming airborne for periods longer than one day, the department concludes that particulate matter from airborne coal ash could harm people’s health, especially for those persons with pre-existing respiratory or heart conditions.

The draft PHA has already undergone government review by Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, TDEC, ATSDR and EPA to ensure the accuracy of the data and science used in the report. Also involved in the review of the assessment were the Tennessee Poison Center and Oak Ridge Associated Universities. The ATSDR has provided the report to three outside, independent reviewers for scientific peer review as well.

Comments must be submitted in writing. Submit via e-mail to EEP.Health@tn.gov or mail to:

Environmental Epidemiology Program

Tennessee Department of Health

1st Floor, Cordell Hull Building

425 5th Avenue North

Nashville TN 37243

December 22, 2009 marks one year since the coal ash spill, where a retaining wall failed at the TVA Kingston Fossil Plant in Roane County, Tenn. More than 5.4 million cubic yards of coal ash spilled from an on-site holding pond to cover more than 300 acres of surrounding land and water.

TDEC serves as the state’s lead agency to contain the immediate threat to human health and the environment. TDH continues to play a critical role in working with TDEC and assessing and ensuring ongoing public health protection. In the weeks following the spill, TDH went door-to-door to conduct a health survey and to share information with area residents. The department provided information to area medical practitioners. TDH operates the state lab that analyzes all the samples collected by TDEC, and provides health assessors to determine whether adverse health effects are likely based on the data.

On May 11, the United States Environmental Protection Agency signed an enforceable agreement with TVA to oversee the removal of coal ash at the TVA Kingston Plant. The state of Tennessee welcomed this action and continues to work in partnership with EPA to ensure the cleanup in Roane County is thorough and protective of public health and the environment.

For more information on the involvement of TDH in protecting residents’ health in the aftermath of the Kingston coal ash spill, visit http://health.state.tn.us/coalashspill.htm. For more information on the Environmental Epidemiology Program, visit the Website.

Still Sifting Through the Ash

On this morning last year, residents along Swan Pond Road and the Emory and Clinch Rivers in Roane County, Tennessee, stepped from the year’s longest night’s darkness into the dawning aftermath of ashen, apocalyptic-looking cataclysm.

One county resident later said the mammoth scale and magnitude of the phenomenon was better described as a “geological event” than a mere “spill,” or as TVA’s public relations department toyed around with calling the largest inadvertent coal-ash dump in U.S. history, a “sudden, accidental release” of a “large amount of material.”

Just after midnight Dec. 22, 2008, a Tennessee Valley Authority-owned coal-ash waste containment dike was transformed by precipitation into a billion-gallon rolling, roiling, rain-saturated tsunami of ooze and goop.

The frigid molten mass slid across the Emory River and its Swan Pond wetlands toward the Emory’s confluence with the Clinch River, enveloping, damaging or destroying everything in its path, including boats, boathouses, docks, roads and railroads, bottomland farm fields and many people’s homes.

That no one died or was seriously injured is even today almost as stunning to comprehend as the event itself. Had the calamity occurred during, say, the bustle of a summer afternoon rather than the dead of December night, the result could have been one of the darkest days in living Tennessee memory.

TVA later reported in it’s “Root Cause Analysis” that a “combination of the high water content of the wet ash, the increasing height of ash [mound-storage], the construction of the sloping dikes over the wet ash, and the existence of an unusual bottom layer of ash and silt were among the long-evolving conditions that caused the ash spill at Kingston Fossil Plant on Dec. 22, 2008.”

For a little perspective on the gargantuan nature of the 5.4 million cubic-yard fury of fly-ash slurry, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation deputy commissioner Paul Sloan told state lawmakers last session, “If you took the Great Smoky Mountains and you subdivided it in one-acre tracts – over half a million acres – the amount that spilled would be sufficient to put about 11 tons of ash on every one of those acres.”

Not surprisingly, a lot of the detritus — a whole lot — is still hanging around the area. The cleanup effort underway is massive, as it has been since just after the event. And the remaining residents nearby who haven’t been bought-out by TVA say they’re weary of the constant confrontation with the unyielding truck and train traffic, the mess, the health worries, the broken dreams and the giant New Deal-era federal corporation that has caused it all. They describe living in a state of constant headache, both figurative and, for some who say they’re suffering physical symptoms as a result of the ever-present ash residue, real.

“The Swan Pond Community prior to Dec. 22, 2008 was a normal but beautiful community, with neighbors that have been neighbors for 50 plus years,” said local resident Randy Ellis, who serves on the Roane County Long Term Recovery Committee and is vice chairman of the county’s Community Advisory Group.

“We had the beauty of the mountains and the river. This time of the year you could drive through our community and see the Christmas lights and the different families gathering at homes to celebrate the holidays,” he said. “Now, as you can see around us, what people are left are surrounded by empty houses bought by the TVA. Our once beautiful and quiet neighborhood was turned upside down.”