Category Archives: TVA

Congressmen oppose TVA ‘floating homes’ ban

Members of a congressional panel took issue Friday with a new Tennessee Valley Authority policy that requires removal of floating homes from public waterways controlled by the utility, reports Michael Collins.

Rep. Mark Meadows, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Government Operations, blasted the policy as “an arbitrary decision” that would harm tourism-dependent communities and as an unnecessary distraction from the TVA’s mission of producing low-cost energy.

“This is yet another example of the federal government getting involved without seriously evaluating the consequences,” said Meadows, R-N.C.

Even the committee’s top Democrat, Rep. Gerald Connolly of Virginia, said that while he agrees with TVA’s position that no one has permanent “squatting rights” on public waters, the utility should find a compromise that will protect reservoirs without harming families who already own floating homes. Continue reading

TVA cuts budget, raises electricity rates

The TVA board on Thursday approved a 1.5 percent retail rate increase estimated to cost the typical residential customer $1.50 more per month on electric bills, reports the News Sentinel.

Meeting at TVA headquarters in Knoxville, the board also approved a $10.37 billion budget — $330 million less than last year.

“This budget is in keeping with TVA’s long-term financial plan, which has helped us manage our business to a lower cost structure as businesses and consumers use less energy,” TVA President and CEO Bill Johnson said in a statement. “It reflects a modest, incremental rate increase that ensures we make necessary investments in the power system and manage down debt.”

TVA’s rate increases are applied to its power distributor customers, such as the Knoxville Utilities Board, which usually pass the increases along to their customers. The $10.37 billion budget compares to a $10.7 billion budget approved in August 2015. That budget also included a 1.5 percent rate increase, said to be driven by capital needs such as completing the Watts Bar Unit 2 nuclear reactor, and others.

TVA closing coal ash ponds, leaving ash in place

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) — TVA is closing and capping 10 coal ash ponds at power plants in Tennessee and Alabama, against the urging of environmentalists who want the ash dug up and removed.

TVA issued its decision on Friday, affirming plans to keep the coal ash at six fossil plants where the ash was dumped over the past half century. TVA said the best, fastest and cheapest method of cleaning up the ponds is to close them and put a cap on the wastes to prevent leakage.

“We believe that TVA’s coal combustion residuals’ management activities are not harming human health or the environment,” John McCormick, TVA vice president of safety, river management and environment, said in a statement Friday. “We also found that digging up the coal ash and moving it someplace else has more potential environmental and safety impacts than closure-in-place and adds significantly more time and costs for our ratepayers.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has also signed off on TVA’s plan. Continue reading

TVA agrees to reduce coal plants’ water pollution

Press release from Southern Alliance for Clean Energy
Knoxville, Tenn. (July 27, 2016) – The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Earthjustice, Tennessee Clean Water Network, Environmental Integrity Project and the Sierra Club recently reached a settlement agreement with the Tennessee Department of Environmental Conservation (TDEC) and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to better protect Tennesseans from toxic metals and other pollutants in water discharges from TVA’s Gallatin, Bull Run and Kingston coal plants.

After fighting the issue for more than six years, TDEC and TVA finally agreed to reduce the pollutants in water discharged under the three plants’ Clean Water Act operating permits issued by TDEC. Under the settlement agreement, TVA must incorporate new federal guidelines for the discharge of toxic pollutants like arsenic and selenium and submit updated permit applications for Gallatin, Bull Run and Kingston to TDEC by November 2, 2016. By including these updated public health requirements in the operating permits for these three coal plants, TVA will reduce the amount of toxic pollution it dumps in our waterways by over 90 percent for most significant pollutants.

TVA’s practice, like many other major utilities in the Southeast, has been to adopt the minimum requirements for wastewater discharge for their coal plants. TVA has largely failed to update its operating permits despite industry innovation that has made it cheaper for coal plants to reduce the amount of toxins it discharges into our rivers and streams.

The settlement agreement is a critical piece in protecting our health and our environment in Tennessee, especially because all three of the coal plants will be operating into the foreseeable future. TVA does not maintain good water monitoring records, but based on the most recent information we could find, these three coal plants discharged over 1,300 pounds of selenium, which is highly toxic to fish, and over 1,700 pounds of arsenic, a potent carcinogen and neurotoxin, in 2015. Under the new permits required by the agreement, the selenium discharges will fall by 97 percent, and the arsenic discharges will fall by 94 percent.

“SACE has a long history of engaging with TVA and believes TVA has dragged its feet on this issue, to the detriment of our health and our rivers,” said Dr. Stephen A. Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “By ensuring that both TVA and TDEC move quickly to incorporate the most protective pollution standards, our communities and waterways will be healthier and TVA will be held accountable for the impacts its coal plants have on our lives.”

“This is a good result for every Tennessean; all of whom deserve clean, safe water to drink and recreate in,” said Jonathan Levenshus, senior campaign representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign in Tennessee. “TVA’s new water discharge permits at coal plants will have to include EPA’s new Effluent Limitation Guidelines —which provide strong, efficient protections for our water, environment and public health—and our state’s regulator will no longer be able to delay action, letting the old permits continue without a fair review.”

“We took on this fight over six years ago, and it has been an uphill battle all the way,” said Abel Russ, attorney for Environmental Integrity Project. “But we hung in there, and the things we have been asking for are now required by law, so TVA must – finally – start to take environmental stewardship seriously.”

“It is past time for these three dinosaur coal plants to modernize,” said Earthjustice attorney Mary Whittle. “These new, stronger permit requirements are critical to protecting the Cumberland, Clinch, and Emory Rivers and to protecting the people of Tennessee who depend on these rivers for drinking water and recreation.”

“After years of negotiations with TVA, these new discharge standards will improve water quality in Tennessee,” said Renee Hoyos, executive director of the Tennessee Clean Water Network. “As these waters are the source of drinking water for millions of citizens in the Volunteer state, meeting these new standards can’t come soon enough.”

These conservation groups will continue to track this issue and ensure that the final permits approved by TDEC have the most protective pollution limits in order to keep our waters and our communities safe and healthy.

Obama re-nominates three TVA board members

President Barack Obama announced Thursday he is nominating Pete Mahurin, Michael McWherter and Joe H. Ritch to new terms on the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Board of Directors.

All three were first appointed by Obama to the board in 2013. Ritch has beenchairman since 2014.

Ritch is an attorney with the law firm of Sirote & Permutt in Huntsville, Ala.

Mahurin of Bowling Green, Ky., has been with Hilliard Lyons Financial Services since 1968 and has been its chairman since 2008. He is also board chairman of the HL Financial Services Holding Co. and is a board member with Houchens Industries, Albany Bancorp, First Cecilian Bancorp, Gray Construction and Jackson Financial.

McWherter, son of former Tennessee Gov. Ned McWherter, is owner and president of Central Distributors Inc. and Volunteer Distributing Co. in Jackson. He has been chairman of the board of First State Bank of Union City, Tenn. and on the board of directors of the Jackson Energy Authority.

UPDATE/Note: An emailed statement from U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander:

Mike McWherter, Joe Ritch, and Pete Mahurin have helped TVA provide cheap, clean, reliable electricity to the seven-state Tennessee Valley region. I am glad the president submitted their nominations to serve additional five-year terms, and I look forward to supporting their confirmations so they can continue their good work on the TVA Board.”

Chinese paid TVA manager for nuclear technology info

A former senior TVA manager has admitted he was paid by the Chinese government for nuclear technological information while working for the utility, court records unsealed Friday show.

From the News Sentinel report:

Ching Ning Guey has struck a deal to plead guilty to a charge of development of special nuclear material outside the U.S. The case, kept under seal for more than a year, is tied to an indictment announced earlier this month against a Chinese nuclear engineer and a Chinese-owned nuclear power plant alleging nuclear espionage.

Guey worked as a senior manager for the probabilistic risk assessment division of the Tennessee Valley Authority from 2010 to 2014. According to a plea agreement filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles Atchley, Guey had access through his job to tightly-controlled information about the development and production of special nuclear material.

“The defendant received warnings and guidance on the restrictions and controls that pertain to the prohibitions against the distribution and sharing of this information with restricted countries,” Atchley wrote.

But in November 2013, Guey was invited to travel to China at the request of a nuclear power company owned by the People’s Republic of China. The trip was financed by the Chinese government, and Guey was paid by the Chinese government for three key Electric Power Research Institute reports that China was barred from accessing, Atchley wrote. All three reports provided key information about light-water and heavy-water nuclear reactors and are regulated by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration Office of Nonproliferation and International Security.

Guey, who was born in Taiwan but became a naturalized citizen in 1990, was recruited as far back as 2004 to provide the Chinese government with nuclear information, court records show. That relationship came as a result of Guey’s meeting in the early 1990s with Chinese nuclear engineer Szuhsiung “Allen” Ho at a Chinese American Nuclear Technology Association event.C

TN congressmen avoid involvement in TVA pension fight

A union representing TVA employees is calling for congressional hearings on proposed changes to the employee pension plan and is asking lawmakers to hold the utility accountable for its pension obligations, reports the News Sentinel.

But members of Tennessee’s congressional delegation don’t seem eager to take sides in the fight.

“We are well aware that TVA’s pension system is significantly underfunded and reforms are necessary,” a spokeswoman for U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Chattanooga, said last week. “While we do not inject ourselves in the decision-making of the board, we do understand that we will be hearing from those affected by these proposals and look forward to those conversations.”
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Slatery won’t sue EPA; GOP legislators unhappy

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery opted not to join in a legal challenge to the new carbon restrictions on power plants being pushed in 27 other states, reports the Times-Free Press.

Slatery’s decision comes despite complaints from GOP lawmakers opposed to the new EPA rules. Attorneys general in 27 other states, including most of Tennessee’s neighhbors, have joined a lawsuit against the rules.

…Harlow Sumerford, communications director for the Tennessee Attorney General, said concerns about EPA’s initial carbon control regulations “have been alleviated in the final rule” by allowing TVA to count its new Watts Bar Unit 2 reactor toward its carbon reduction targets and by extending the enforcement date for the new rules by another couple of years.

“We will continue to monitor the situation, as well as consult with impacted parties,” Sumerford said, but Slatery decided against joining the lawsuit by Tuesday’s filing deadline for such challenges.

That decision has upset many of the 59 legislators who signed a letter in August asking Slatery to join the lawsuit against EPA.

State Sen. Janice Bowling, R-Tullahoma, who authored the letter, said Tuesday she is “very disappointed” that Tennessee “is not doing the right thing” by challenging what she calls “junk science.”

…State Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, called the EPA rules “an overreach of the federal government” and urged Slatery to reconsider and join the fight against the new rules to avoid higher power rates for businesses and consumers.

The lawmakers also said they wish that Tennessee’s Environment and Conservation Commissioner Bob Martineau had not flown to Paris this month for the United Nations climate change conference. His trip was paid for by the Climate Action Reserve and not state taxpayers, according to TDEC spokeswoman Kelly Brockman.

“He still shouldn’t have gone and participated in an international event where we committed to a plan that will make power rates more costly,” Bowling said.

But Myers said TVA expects annual rate increases of only a fraction of what critics claim. He said TVA rates should rise about 1.5 percent a year in the next decade, comparable to what it has raised rates for the past couple of years since Bill Johnson took over as TVA’s CEO.

AR lawmakers oppose OK-to-Memphis power line

GUYMON, Okla. (AP) — Officials with Houston-based Clean Line Energy Partners say construction could begin in 2017 on a planned 700-mile transmission line to carry wind-generated electricity across Oklahoma and Arkansas into Tennessee.

The planned Plains & Eastern Clean Line would carry the wind power from as-yet undeveloped wind farms in the Oklahoma Panhandle to Memphis, Tennessee, where it would connect to the Tennessee Valley Authority.

Mario Hurtado, Clean Line vice president for development, told The Journal Record that he expects the project, announced in 2010, to be operating by 2020.

“It takes a lot of time to put together an infrastructure project like this,” Hurtado said.

However, opposition has surfaced in Arkansas, where the state’s six-member congressional delegation has objected to the federal government possibly using eminent domain to take land for the project. The federal lawmakers say eminent domain should be decided at the state and local level.

“We continue to have serious concerns that this project erodes the rights of local communities and the state of Arkansas to have a seat at the table in the decision-making process,” according to a statement from Sens. John Boozman and Tom Cotton and Reps. Steve Womack, French Hill, Rick Crawford and Bruce Westerman following a Dec. 10 meeting with U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.

All of the six lawmakers are Republicans.

Clean Line officials say about $7 billion will be invested in the project, boosting economies in both Oklahoma and Arkansas.

“Several hundred permanent, quality wind tech and support jobs will be created to operate and maintain the line and wind farms,” said Vicki Ayres-Portman, Clean Line outreach manager based in Guymon.

“Millions of dollars annually will go to counties, schools and landowners,” Ayres-Portman said. “It is a great way for our farmers and ranchers to diversify their income as well.”

In November, researchers from the center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Arkansas published a study that estimated the construction of operation of the transmission project will add more than $660 million to the economy in Arkansas.

TVA board member gets new term

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Former Oxford Mayor Richard Howorth has been confirmed to a second term on the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Board of Directors with the support of Mississippi Sens. Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker.

The Senate approved Howorth’s nomination by voice vote Thursday.

Howorth was first appointed in 2011 and re-nominated to a new term in July. With confirmation, he is cleared to serve a term expiring in May 2020.

In a news release, Cochran says TVA plays an important role in North Mississippi, and Howorth has used his position to effectively represent the state’s interests and those of all TVA customers.

Howorth, the founder and owner of Square Books in Oxford, served to two terms as mayor, during which time he was chairman of the authority overseeing the Oxford Electric Department.