TVA Pushes to Prolong Litigation, Avoid Power Plant Clean-Up

Date:   July 20, 2004
Contact:   Jill Stephens, NPCA, (865) 250-8126
Dave Muhly, Sierra Club Appalachian Regional Representative, (276) 688-2190
Don Barger, NPCA, (865) 329-2424, ext. 23

TVA Pushes to Prolong Litigation, Avoid Power Plant Clean-Up

Knoxville, TN - The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) and the Sierra Club today asserted that the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) is obstructing the much-needed clean up of air pollution that diminishes scenic views and threatens human health by seeking to delay lawsuits filed by the two organizations until 2006.

“TVA spent millions of dollars overhauling its coal-fired power plants, but broke the law by not installing readily available pollution controls that would clean up these facilities and better protect our national parks and our neighborhoods,” said Jill Stephens with NPCA. “For years, we have lived with thousands of tons of unnecessary air pollution that cause asthma, premature deaths, and have contributed to the Great Smoky Mountains becoming the nation’s most polluted national park. All of this should have been dealt with years ago.”

In the 1980s, pollution dumped into the air from TVA’s Colbert facility in Alabama increased significantly after TVA made major changes to the power plant. As a result TVA was required by the Clean Air Act to update its pollution controls. Similar, un-permitted increases of air pollution occurred at Bull Run and other coal-fired power plants. In 1999, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) filed a “compliance order” against TVA for failing to comply with a Clean Air Act program known as New Source Review. TVA promptly appealed and has never complied with EPA’s order.

As a result of this regulatory stalemate, NPCA and Sierra Club brought “citizen suits” against TVA in 2001 to enforce the law. But TVA continues to employ delaying tactics instead of addressing the pollution.

In 2002, the Bull Run power plant emitted more than 42,000 tons of sulfur dioxide and nearly 18,000 tons of nitrogen oxides. Colbert discharged nearly 80,000 tons of sulfur dioxide and more than 15,000 tons of nitrogen oxides. Together, the particulate matter pollution from these facilities shortens the lives of more than 170 individuals each year. A number of counties situated downwind from the plants now violate EPA health standards for ozone, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park ranked as America’s most polluted national park in a report released in June.

After first refusing to discuss a settlement offer last week, TVA’s attorneys will go before a judge this week and argue for a delayed trial date. TVA says it needs more time to photocopy millions of pages of documents, and to question dozens of witnesses in its own defense.

“What was proposed to TVA last week was basically asking them to get serious about cleaning up these plants, to make good on their promises” said Dave Muhly with the Sierra Club. “TVA is doing everything it can to drag these cases out. If it’s serious about cleaning up its facilities and not just providing lip service and empty assurances, then the American people deserve a real commitment.”

This year, TVA is installing and operating controls on both facilities to reduce nitrogen oxides but only plans to run these during summer months. Although TVA announced a plan to install scrubbers to reduce sulfur dioxide the plan remains indistinct and unenforceable. Furthermore, pollution control credits generated from the installation of those controls can be used by TVA to allow other units it operates to remain uncontrolled.

“Pollution from older, coal-fired power plants poses a real danger to public health and the health of our national parks,” said Jill Stephens with NPCA. “The public deserves an enforceable schedule for clean up, year round controls, and surrendered pollution credits.”

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