published Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

Tennessee: Lawmakers push federal aid for TVA spill cleanup

by Herman Wang
  • photo
    Staff Photo by Patrick Smith A broken retaining wall gives way to sludge covered with grass seed, fertilizer and straw blanket the Swan Pond Circle Road area after TVA's Dec. 22 coal fly ash spill. Workers continue to remove the coal fly ash sediment covering over 300 acres near Harriman, Tenn.

WASHINGTON — Two Tennessee congressmen say they hope to include $25 million in the federal economic stimulus bill to help TVA’s cleanup efforts after December’s massive coal ash spill.

Reps. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., and Lincoln Davis, D-Tenn., say the funds would ease the burden on Tennessee Valley Authority ratepayers, as the utility pays more than $1 million a day on the cleanup.

“The ash spill is going to increase our rates. Everybody knows it,” Rep. Wamp said. “The $25 million is to help local governments. I know TVA is committed to paying for the cleanup, but they can’t borrow money because of the cap on their debt levels, so it’s going to be passed on to ratepayers.”

But the proposal has drawn fire from other lawmakers, including Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., who said the federal aid has no place in a stimulus bill designed to kick-start the country’s ailing economy.

“It’s a discredit to the whole process to in any way allude to (the aid) as a stimulus,” Sen. Corker said. “This is exactly the kind of thing that causes Americans to be so discontented with Congress. That is not a stimulus. If people want to talk about this as the 2009 pork package, that’s a different thing.”

PDF: Ash health study

PDF: Swan Pond ash report

Article: Health report on ash spill disputed

Article: 1 year later: Digging out of the ashes

PDF: Kingston timeline

Article: Coal ash disaster prompts TVA to restructure

Article: Ash spill area residents still angry one year later

PDF: TVA notice of winning performance payments

PDF: Richard Moore testimony

PDF: Tom Kilgore testimony

PDF: Lessons Learned

PDF: TVA Stakeholder Letter

Article: TVA sending ash to 2 sites

PDF: Ash load test letters

PDF: Kingston ash facts

Article: Study links cancer rate, coal ash landfills

Article: Ash cleanup price tag nears $1 billion

PDF: TVA quarterly report

PDF: TVA coal plant emissions

PDF: Tom Kilgore

Article: 100 days later, ash spill questions linger for Tennessee Valley Authority

Article: Kingston ash spill site roads reopening

Article: Chattanooga : Tests show no sign of ash spill

PDF: TVA Corrective Action Plan

Article: Tennessee Valley Authority may end ash ponds in Kingston

Article: Tennessee: Brockovich firm files ash spill lawsuit

Article: Tennessee: Coal ash regulation bill pushed in wake of TVA spill

PDF: TVA ash cleanup plan

Article: Tennessee: Costs mount for Kingston ash cleanup

Article:Tennessee: Kingston ash spill prompts 2nd congressional hearing

PDF: TVA ash cleanup plan

PDF: Ash removal facts

Article:Tennessee Valley Authority to dredge Emory River to remove ash

PDF: TVA executive changes

Article:Tennessee Valley Authority shakes up executive staff

Article: Tennessee: Grassroots ash effort grows Internet roots

Article: Tennessee: Study suggests coal ash spill health risk

PDF: Duke University study

Article: Tennessee: Lawmakers push federal aid for TVA spill cleanup

PDF: TVA Ocoee Plans

Coal ash: What states and plants are putting into pond

Article: Tennessee Valley Authority plan changes Ocoee controls

Article: Tennessee: Decisions on ash spill cleanup still up in air

Article:Video: Residents react one month after spill

Article:Tennessee: Tests show no fly ash toxins in river water

Article: Tennessee: Groups protest TVA ash spills

Article: Tennessee: Polk votes to post warnings on Ocoee

PDF: Polk County Commission resolution

Article:Tennessee: More scrubbers ordered for Widows Creek plant

PDF: federal court order

Video: TVA spill prompts local water testing

PDF: Bredesen Announces Order Formalizing Cleanup and Compliance Proceeds

PDF: TVA Ocoee Dam

PDF: Order issued

Article: Tennessee: Widows Creek ash may be more toxic than Kingston’s

Article: Tennessee: Costly spill cleanup spurs debate over who pays

Article: Tennessee: Groups urge more regulations on coal ash

Article: Tennessee: Early warnings on ash pond leaks

Article: Tennessee: Environmental groups prepare to sue TVA

Article: Tennessee: Early warnings on ash pond leaks

Article:Tennessee: Brockovich aids ash victims

Article:Tennessee: Senate panel blasts TVA over Kingston ash spill

PDF: Kingston Senate Hearing Testmony

Article: Tennessee: Groups urge more regulations on coal ash

PDF: NASA satellite photo

Article: Kingston: TVA watchdog to review Kingston ash spill

Article:Lawsuit planned against TVA over Kingston coal ash spill

Article:Corker says ash spill should be 'wake-up call' for state and federal agencies

Article:Kingston: TVA watchdog to review Kingston ash spill

Article:Lawsuit planned against TVA over Kingston coal ash spill

Article: Kingston cleanup (video)

PDF: 2008 dike inspection report

Article: Early warnings on ash pond leaks

Article: Farmers worried TVA doesn’t understand their concerns

Article: Tennessee: Community awaits answers

Article: Tennessee: Spill cleanup shifts focus away from emissions

Article:Tennessee Valley Authority spill could endanger sturgeon

Article: Tennessee Valley Authority to spread grass seed at Kingston coal ash spill site

PDF: EPA Testing Results

Article: Metal levels at ash spill exceed TVA's measure

Editorial Cartoon: Clean Coal

PDF: TVA incident action plan 01/01/09

PDF: Preliminary TVA Ash Spill Sample Data

Video: Ash spill clean up

Video: Ash spill demolition

Video: Ash spill aftermath

Article: Tennessee-American tests water following Kingston plant spill

Article: Tennessee: Governor says state will toughen oversight on TVA facilities

PDF: Chattanooga_Water_Quality

PDF:Ash spill

Article:Tennessee: Corps to dredge river to clear coal ash spill

Article:Tennessee: Questions persists on spill

PDF: Berke TVA Spill

PDF: Wamp Statement on Kingston

PDF: EPA Statement on Ash Release

Article:Tennessee Valley Authority vows to clean up spill,

Article:Tennessee Valley Authority boosts estimate from coal ash spill

Article: First tests show water safe after ash deluge

Article: Cleanup begins in wake of ash pond flood

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Article: TVA dike bursts in Tennessee, flooding 8-10 homes

An aide to Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., who earlier said he would support efforts to obtain federal dollars for the cleanup, said in a statement, “if there is a federal pilot program to deal with coal ash, Kingston would be an ideal location. But cleaning up this spill is ultimately TVA’s responsibility.”

Stephen Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, said the planned request “looks and smells to me like an earmark.” He said he doesn’t understand the rationale that taxpayers should be paying for the cleanup.

“I hope TVA gets lots of money out of the stimulus package for innovative, alternative power,” he said. “But I don’t know that cleaning up a screw-up was what President Obama had in mind.”

On Dec. 22, the wall of an earthen landfill split at the Kingston Fossil Plant, pouring about 1.1 billion gallons of coal-ash sludge — some of which contained such toxic metals as arsenic and chromium — onto nearby land and into the Emory River.

Reps. Wamp and Davis defended their proposal to clean up the muck, saying the funding should be considered as a disaster supplemental funding request, given that heavy rains likely contributed to the collapse of the earthen wall at the Kingston plant.

They said TVA officials, who could not be reached for comment, did not request the federal funding but have agreed that it would help their cleanup efforts.

“It would be consistent and appropriate to use federal dollars to pay for the cleanup since TVA is a federal entity,” Rep. Davis also said in a statement.

Rep. Wamp agreed that the aid does not fit the description of a stimulus, but he said Democrats, who control both chambers of Congress, already have loaded the $825 billion stimulus bill down with provisions that aren’t specifically aimed at creating jobs. The House is expected to vote on the bill this week.

“The point I’m making is, if you’re going to do this and spend all this money, I’m going to make the case that the ratepayers should get help,” Rep. Wamp said. “It’s not their fault that the spill happened.”

Rep. Wamp added that TVA, unlike privately owned utilities, has been tasked by Congress with land and water stewardship. Although TVA used to receive federal funding for its conservation efforts, Congress has not provided that funding for over a decade, he said.

Rep. Wamp said he hopes to insert the funding during conference negotiations after the Senate passes the bill, which is expected.

Residents near the ash spill were mixed on the proposed aid.

Jason Robertson, 20, of Harriman, said the cleanup is TVA’s responsibility and the federal aid “amounts to a bailout.”

But Kingston Mayor Troy Beets said he thinks the $25 million request is a good thing.

“It’s probably just some congressmen trying to help their constituency,” said Mr. Beets, who also is the chairman of the Roane County Commission. “The federal government does help out in areas where things like this have happened. Look at all the money spent on New Orleans after Katrina.”

Garvin Morris, a retiree who moved to Harriman to fish in the Emory River inlet now filled in with ash sludge, said TVA will need all the help it can get.

“I’d say everything they can put in there will be needed,” he said. “I think (the proposed $25 million) will help the ratepayers. The tax portion split over the country would be a small amount.”

about Pam Sohn...

Pam Sohn has been reporting or editing Chattanooga news for 25 years. A Walden’s Ridge native, she began her journalism career with a 10-year stint at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. She came to the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 1999 after working at the Chattanooga Times for 14 years. She has been a city editor, Sunday editor, wire editor, projects team leader and assistant lifestyle editor. As a reporter, she also has covered the police, ...

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thatguy said...

Here's the mindset for the GOP --- Government stay out of our business let the free enterprise system work things out, Government is to large and has no business in private business ---- sounds like my children "Dad mind your own business I can take care of myself". Then one day children show up at the door Dad I need $700 Billion dollars to bail my butt out of this mess I created. Come on America which way do you want it --- I know how about both ways.

Then Our so called leaders are so afraid of losing a vote or the wealth that the lobbyist are handing out like candy at a parade that they are not willing to make sound decisions to better the country rather they make sound decisions to take care of themselves. What a mess for me and the rest of the working class America.

January 27, 2009 at 8:14 a.m.
Pelham1861 said...

Ludicrous use of the taxpayers money and more hypocrisy from Congressman Wamp. This is TVA's responsiblity...not the American taxpayers.

As for Wamp, in this case, he recently announced he would not vote for any future bailouts(like he did last Fall) ... so now, a week later he is trying to add funds to the new $850 billion bailout package that he says he's not going to vote for? Brilliant...and another reason Wamp (an otherwise gifted individual) should have kept his promise to be term limited. He has been corrupted by the process and now he wants to be Governor?

No taxpayers funds for TVA and no governship for Wamp.

January 27, 2009 at 9:25 a.m.
kevinnilson said...

the money would be better spent on employment not special intrest groups the people has had enough of linning the pockets of the greedy mr wamp needs to reamber this when he run for another term

January 27, 2009 at 10:52 a.m.
LoveChattanooga said...

Another example of clean coal????

January 27, 2009 at 11:05 a.m.
mzlaalaa said...

Not only does the $25 million look & smell like an earmark, it is. Ever since the banks got their bailout, Our lawmakers have been drooling over the idea that the government is giving out free money.

With that idea comes the expectation of the people that the money is for me, me, me. So our lawmakers are human and they want these federal monies to be for them, them, them. But what we have to remember is that the money is not free it is the taxpayers & belongs to them.

It's an American tragedy in the making. But what is even more tragic is the Kingston Mayor, Troy Beets, comment of "Look at all the money spent on New Orleans after Katrina."

I do not know if he has his facts right about Katrina, but thousands were misplaced & upwards of 1,100 died. So please Mr. Beets the next time you want to equate devastation do it along similar lines i.e. ExxonValdez oil spill or what the Erin Brockovich movie was about.

Please do not assume that natural disasters have the same effect on Americans as man made mishaps. I understand the devastation in Kingston; people lost their ways of life, homes, land & water. However, this was something that could've have been prevented while as we know natural disasters cannot.

January 27, 2009 at 12:17 p.m.
bobash said...

The impetus should be the development of nationally enforeceable regulations of the disposal and storage of flyash rather than monies to cleanup the mess caused by the lack of regulation. It's just like Wall Street you can't expect people to do the RIGHT thing when money comes between what is Right or Wrong!!!Look at your retirement accounts!!!

January 27, 2009 at 4:16 p.m.
rolando said...

Mzlaalaa: You are correct up to a point when you say the money is not free but belongs to the taxpayers; actually, our President [both W and O] merely directed the treasury to print up a fresh, unowned batch for his use. Yes, that makes ours worth less by increasing the money supply...

On the other hand, you err when you say natural and man-made devastation are not similar and related.

For instance, had the Mayor of New Orleans acted promptly and responsibly, perhaps no one would have died in the flood. Had those responsible for maintaining the dikes acted like adults instead of witless children and done their job instead of building beautiful fountains with the money, the dikes may not have broken and flooded the area. Instead of saving themselves, many victims acted irresponsibly by depending on the government to save them or just ignored the whole their regret. And the list goes on.

Man is responsible in one way or another for most every catastrophe...problem is, everyone wants to blame the other guy.

January 27, 2009 at 11:17 p.m.
rolando said...

LoveChattanooga: That is what happens when the people and the eco-freaks stop the development of practical alternative power sources -- nuclear and/or wind, for instance. Watt's Bar could have been online years ago...and the winds off Massachusetts should have been harnessed years ago.

The demand for power will only go up. O can close all the coal mines, kill all the beef cattle, allow only new SmartCars, and the other disasters he plans and we will STILL demand power/hamburgers/big cars, sending out to Canada for the former and Brazil/Argentina for the second and Europe/China for the latter.

January 27, 2009 at 11:28 p.m.
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