Press Releases

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:

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Conservative Group Backs Effort to Ban Mountaintop Mining

Legislation to protect Tennessee’s mountains has new, if somewhat unexpected, support: the Tennessee Conservative Union.

Citing the involvement of the “Red Chinese” in mountaintop removal mining, the conservative organization has launched a statewide media effort to ban the harvesting of coal by blowing the tops off Tennessee’s mountains.

“Tennessee has become the first state in our great nation to permit the Red Chinese to destroy our mountains and take our coal,” a gravelly, male voice warns in the ad released by the TCU, alluding to a Chinese company reportedly indicating an intention last year to invest in the Tennessee-based Triple H Coal Company.

According to the company’s website, Triple H is “one of the fastest growing coal mining operations in the Tennessee Coal Mining Reserve. We supply the increasing demand for clean coal energy to the U.S. domestic market as well as rapid expanding emerging markets such as China. Triple H’s Tennessee mines cover a surface area of over 30,000 mineral acres and consist of nine seams that are located throughout the Tennessee Coal Reserve.”

An email to the company asking for comment went unanswered.

The conservative Tennessee group joins environmental organizations such as the Sierra Club and Appalachian Voices in pushing back against mountaintop removal.

Appalachian Voices is eager to work with “anyone who supports protecting Tennessee’s mountains,” said JW Randolph, director of the Tennessee branch of the environmental group.

“From my perspective, we don’t care if they’re from China or Chattanooga – they can be from anywhere. Blowing up mountains is a bad idea,” Randolph said. “The fact that everybody from the most liberal and progressive people in the state support protecting our mountains, and the most conservative people in our state support protecting our mountains, I think, gives me a lot of hope.”

The “Scenic Vistas Protection Act,” HB43/SB99, sponsored by Rep. Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville, and Sen. Lowe Finney, D-Jackson, would seek to prevent mountaintop removal operations by prohibiting the issuance of water quality control permits for certain projects. The bill would affect projects altering ridgelines at an elevation higher than 2,000 feet above sea level.

That’s on the low end of the height range for the Great Smoky Mountains, which range from 875 feet to 6,643 feet – the elevation of Clingmans Dome.

According to the bill, previously issued permits for mountaintop removal activities could only be renewed by the original applicant. The measure doesn’t expand or change the allowed surface area of mining operations or previously allowed actions and is not otherwise against the law. The bill also does not allow permits to be transferred from one person to another.

Although both the bill’s primary sponsors are Democrats, it appears to have at least some bipartisan support. Two Republicans in the House have signed on as co-prime sponsors: Bill Dunn, of Knoxville, who has been honored as the TCU Legislator of the Year, and Bob Ramsey of Maryville.

Gloria JohnsonGloria Johnson

“I think that the citizens – the majority of citizens of Tennessee – are supportive of that bill and don’t want to see any more mountaintop removal,” Johnson said.

During the 2012 legislative session the bill was sent to a summer study panel, where no action was taken on it.

The bill, important because of its intent to “preserve” one of the state’s “greatest assets,” has been heard before the state Legislature in various forms over the last three years, said sponsor Sen. Lowe Finney, of Jackson.

“What you’re seeing is a lot of people realize that this is an issue that can be addressed, that should be addressed and people from all over the state are taking an interest in it,” said Finney, chairman of the Senate Democratic Caucus.

Coal could be mined more responsibly, and it would benefit Tennesseans to not destroy and desecrate one of the powerful symbols of the state’s history, said Charles White, an active member of the Tennessee Chapter of the Sierra Club. He added that coal can be mined in other ways that would provide more jobs and be more “environmentally” cost-effective.

“It’s high time for our elected officials to give this legislation a chance to be discussed by the full House and Senate,” White said.

The Scenic Vistas Act is scheduled to be heard in both the Senate Energy, Agriculture and Natural Resources committee and the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee Wednesday.

Rep. Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, and Sen. Mark Norris, R-Collierville, also have a bill (HB0875/SB1139) that aims to stem water pollution from surface mining. The bill would prohibit the issuance of permits that allow mining waste within 100 feet of any stream’s high water mark. The bill has not been scheduled for a hearing.

Press Releases

Barnes Snags Endorsements from 2 Environmental Groups

Press release from State Senator Tim Barnes, D-Adams; October 4, 2012: 

CLARKSVILLE – State Sen. Tim Barnes has secured two major endorsements from groups dedicated to protecting our natural resources.

Barnes announced the endorsements of both the TN Conservation Voters and the Tennessee Chapter of the Sierra Club on Tuesday.

“In addition to his proven record of protecting families and veterans, Tim Barnes has been a consistent champion for the protection of the environment,” said Anne Ross, TN Conservation Voters PAC volunteer. “He is committed to preserving Tennessee’s greenways and scenic landscapes for generations to come.”

Penny Brooks, political chair for the Tennessee Chapter of the Sierra Club, said Barnes has shown a strong commitment to conservation and environmental issues while serving in the state Senate.

“It is critical that we protect our natural resources in a way that enhances recreation and doesn’t harm business,” Barnes said. “I am thrilled to have these endorsements.”

Tennessee Conservation Voters is a coalition of member organizations dedicated to safeguarding the environment. Members include the Tennessee Clean Water Network, the Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation and the Warioto Audubon Society.

The Sierra Club is the nation’s largest grassroots environmental organization and works to protect communities and wild places.

Press Releases

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.