Source: Times Free Press | Dave Flessner | August 23, 2017
The Tennessee Valley Authority “is very likely” to appeal a federal court order that the utility dig up and remove coal ash stored for decades at its Gallatin coal plant in Middle Tennessee, TVA President Bill Johnson said Thursday.
Johnson said removing the coal ash will be 10 times more expensive than the current plan to spend about $200 million to cap and store the coal ash where it is now buried. The $2 billion remedy ordered by the court — and the potential for the ruling to set a precedent for other coal ash ponds across the country — is expected to lead to a TVA challenge to the court ruling in Nashville.
“We’re evaluating our options, but I think it is very likely that we will appeal,” Johnson told reporters following a board meeting here today. “This is a case of widespread interest in the industry. These cases are going on around the country and courts are reaching different conclusions so there is a little conflict in the decision at this point.”
In a 123-page decision, U.S. District Court Judge Waverly Crenshaw, Jr., ruled earlier this month that the coal ash ponds at the Gallatin plant had been leaking potentially toxic substances into the groundwater and the Cumberland River and that TVA should dig up the coal ash and remove it to a landfill away from the plant. Crenshaw said the testimony in the case “conclusively establishes that coal ash constituents have historically been discharged into the Cumberland River” from the TVA coal ash ponds.
Since April 1970, TVA has been sluicing coal ash waste to a 476-acre coal ash pond complex, which is also unlined.
TVA argued that removing the coal ash is unnecessary and too expensive.
On Thursday, Lloyd Webb, director of energy procurement for Olin Chlor Akali in Cleveland, Tenn., and chairman of the Tennessee Valley Industrial Committee, urged TVA to appeal Crenshaw’s decision because he said it could set a costly precedent for the cleanup of industrial and utility coal ash ponds across the country. The multi-billion expense of removing coal ash from existing ponds, rather than capping and keeping them in place, also could push up power costs without necessarily improving water quality, Webb said.