Tag Archives: coal

Environmentalists oppose TVA landfill plan

Environmentalists contend the site of a Tennessee Valley Authority landfill in Kingston is pockmarked with sinkholes and not suited for the long-term storage of waste from coal combustion, reports the News-Sentinel.

TVA has filed with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation for a major permit modification for a Class II landfill permit for storage of gypsum waste, fly ash, bottom ash, boiler slag, cinders and clinkers generated by the Kingston Fossil Plant.

At least a half dozen groups, including the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, the Southern Environmental Law Center, Tennessee Clean Water Network, the Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment, the Sierra Club, the Environmental Integrity Project and Earthjustice, expressed concerns last week that the karsts and sinkholes under the landfill could allow the waste to migrate to the Clinch River.

Axel Ringe, conservation chair for the Tennessee Sierra Club, said research by his organization and other experts have shown the site for the 100-acre expansion is not suitable for a landfill.

“It’s undermined by sinkholes and caverns,” he said.

The comments, provided to TDEC for a comment period that ends Tuesday, included an analysis by Kingston-based environmental consultancy Global Environment LLC.

EPA’s coal ash rules disappoint environmentalists

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Six years ago, there was a massive spill of coal ash sludge in Tennessee. Three years later, tons of coal ash swept into Lake Michigan. Last February, there was another spill and gray sludge spewed into the Dan River in North Carolina.

With each disaster, environmentalists sounded alarms and called for the byproduct of burning coal to be treated as hazardous waste. On Friday, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released the first standards for the coal-burning waste, but they were hardly what environmental groups were hoping for.

The EPA ruled that the ash can be treated like regular garbage, meaning regulating the stuff will be left up to states and watchful citizens.

“We had to go to court to force EPA to issue this first-ever coal ash rule, and unfortunately, we will be back in court to force coal plants to clean up their ash dumps and start disposing of their toxic waste safely,” said EarthJustice attorney Lisa Evans.

Added Scott Slesinger of the Natural Resources Defense Council: “Unlike the majority of environmental standards — which are backstopped by federal enforcement — this rule all but leaves people who live near coal ash dumps to fend for themselves.”

The coal industry supported the less strict classification, arguing that the ash wasn’t dangerous, and that a hazardous label would hinder the ash recycling market. About 40 percent of coal ash is reused, in products such as cement.
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Norris wants TN to join push for subjecting fed regulations to congressional approval

By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A Tennessee Republican senator has joined lawmakers in other states who have filed legislation that seeks to curtail federal regulation.

Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris of Collierville discussed the resolution on Tuesday during a special joint committee meeting on the effect of Environmental Protection Agency regulations in Tennessee.

The measure urges Congress to propose the “Regulation Freedom Amendment” to the U.S. Constitution. (Note: It’s SJR2; for the text, click HERE.)

Under the resolution, whenever one-quarter of the members of the U.S. House or Senate oppose a proposed federal regulation, it will require a majority vote of the House and Senate to adopt that regulation.

Norris, who is also chairman of the national Council of State Governments, said a number of other states have filed similar legislation. He didn’t know the exact number, but said about 150 state lawmakers support the proposal.

“The resolution is designed to build momentum in each of the states so that folks in Congress will … see that we’re serious, and that if they don’t act there is enough horse power to take action on our own, as states integral to the federal system,” Norris said.

Most of Tuesday’s meeting of the Joint Government Operations Committee focused on the Obama administration’s plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from U.S. power plants by 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.

The EPA is giving customized targets to each state, then leaving it up to those states to develop plans to meet their targets. Some states will be allowed to emit more and others less, leading to an overall, nationwide reduction of 30 percent.
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TDEC levies $1.3M in fines against coal mining operations

State officials have levied a total of $1.36 million in civil penalties against three coal mining companies that have operations in Anderson and Campbell counties and are owned by a West Virginia coal baron, reports the News Sentinel.

Billionaire James Justice’s Justice Corp. has a history of racking up delinquent fines that are promptly appealed and can stay unpaid for years, said Ann League. She is with the environmental group Appalachian Voices, which focuses on coal-mining operations.

The civil penalties against three of the Justice Corporation’s companies — Premium Coal Company Inc., National Coal LLC, and S&H Mining Inc. — are for failing to submit daily monitoring reports of the quality of water runoff.

The penalties were imposed by the state’s Department of Environment and Conservation, and the TDEC-required reports are for effluent from the companies’ strip- and deep-mining operations during the last three months of 2013 and the first quarter of this year.

The companies are supposed to do self-reporting of water quality monitoring, said Jessica Murphy, compliance enforcement manager for TDEC’s Water Resources Division. It’s not known if those reports weren’t done or just weren’t sent in, she said.

Also uncertain: whether such monitoring is now underway. “I know the Knoxville office (of Water Resources) has been in contact with the (mine) owners,” Murphy said.

The civil penalties involved eight coal-mining sites in Campbell County and seven mining operations in Anderson County. A total of 25 facilities at the mining sites were in violation of the state guidelines. National Coal and Premium Coal have mines in Anderson County, while S&H Mining has four operations in Campbell County.

All of the state’s civil penalties have been appealed, said Kelly Brockman, TDEC spokeswoman

Environmental groups’ lawsuit contends TN coal mines violating federal law

By Dylan Lovan, Associated Press
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Two environmental groups say a West Virginia billionaire’s Tennessee coal mines are violating federal law by not monitoring water pollution.

The groups filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in East Tennessee this week against S&H Mining, saying an underground mine in Campbell County is discharging pollutants into forks of the New River. Statewide Organizing for Community Empowerment, based in Knoxville, and the Sierra Club, filed the lawsuit on Thursday.

The groups also filed a notice that they intend to file additional lawsuits against S&H and two other Tennessee coal companies owned by billionaire Jim Justice, alleging that the companies’ mines are violating the Clean Water Act by not filing water pollution reports.

Steve Ball, vice president of operations for the Justice Corp. based in Roanoke, Virginia, said in an email Friday that the company denies the allegation that the recent water discharge reports for the Tennessee mines have not been submitted. Ball said he has not yet seen any of the legal filings from the environmental groups.
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TN Republicans want to block Obama carbon rules

President Obama’s ambitious plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions by power plants faces a lot of hurdles, reports Michael Collins, and Tennesseans are among those trying to erect some of those hurdles.

States will be required to submit their own plans showing how they will meet emission targets set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. But lawmakers in several states, including Tennessee, are resisting and threatening legal action. The coal industry and other businesses have indicated they also may sue.

Republicans in Congress and some Democrats from coal-producing states also are promising a fight. A bill introduced by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. — and co-sponsored by Tennessee’s two U.S. senators, Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker — would bar the EPA from regulating carbon dioxide emissions on new and existing power plants unless multiple agencies certify such regulations won’t hurt jobs, the economy and electricity reliability.

…Under the 645-page proposal, which will be finalized next year, Tennessee will have to cut its power plant carbon emissions by 39 percent from 2005 levels. The Tennessee Valley Authority, which provides electricity to most of the state, has said it already meets and is on track to exceed the targets.

Nevertheless, State Rep. Glen Casada, R-Thompson Station, said he has asked Tennessee Attorney General Robert E. Cooper Jr. to explore whether the state can sue the EPA on the grounds that the new carbon rules put Tennessee at a disadvantage to Democrat-leaning states that already have state-level caps or different means of creating power. Casada, chairman of the House Republican Caucus, said his aides also are working on legislation regardless of the attorney general’s actions.

“Under the president’s plan, some states will not have to the meet the (same) standards as other states, based upon their actions of the past,” Casada said. “That shows favoritism, and it’s unconstitutional.”

Legal scholars say the EPA is on solid grounds when it comes to regulating carbon emissions, but that it’s still hard to predict how the courts might rule on a lawsuit challenging the new standards.

… If the new rules survive an attack in the courts and in Congress, supporters are fairly confident the next administration would allow them to go forward.

“There is always a chance that some ideologue would be elected who would try to unwind this,” said Stephen Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

But, “I don’t sense that a new administration is going to completely abandon what is being done. By the time a new president takes office, which would be January 2017, most of the states are going to have already gone well into planning for their state implementation plans. Those who haven’t are going to be in trouble because the likelihood of this staying on track is pretty high.”

Alexander backs GOP push to stop EPA carbon emisson rules

News release from Sen. Lamar Alexander
WASHINGTON, June 4 – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today cosponsored legislation by Republican Majority Leader Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that would prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating carbon dioxide emissions on new and existing power plants unless multiple agencies certify such regulations will not hurt jobs, the economy, and electricity reliability. Alexander also signed a letter by Senator David Vitter (R-La.) to the president calling on the administration to withdraw its proposed rule to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants.

“Regulations on carbon from power plants will drive electricity prices up for families and businesses and drive down job growth,” said Alexander. “I have consistently said it’s the job of Congress, not unelected bureaucrats, to determine whether and how to regulate carbon dioxide emissions, and this legislation stops the EPA from pursuing regulations that expand the big, wet blanket of harmful regulations on the economy that destroy job growth and put people out of work.”

Alexander has supported numerous pieces of legislation to make clear it is the job of Congress, not the EPA, to decide to what extent greenhouse gas emissions, including carbon dioxide emissions, should be regulated.
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Obama carbon reduction plan no problem for TVA (on first blush)

From the News Sentinel:
TVA already meets and is on track to exceed the targets set in a just-released Obama administration plan for curbing carbon emissions from power plants, TVA President and CEO Bill Johnson said Monday.

However, he said TVA had just received the 645-page proposed plan and other documents and would need to digest them to understand what implications they may have for the federal utility.

“This appears to be for us a continuation of a trend TVA has been on since 2005,” Johnson said in an afternoon conference call with reporters.

The plan, released Monday, calls for reducing the emissions from power plants 30 percent by 2030. This would be compared to 2005 levels. TVA’s 2013 carbon emissions were 30 percent what they were in 2005, and are projected to be 40 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, Johnson said. By 2020, emissions from TVA plants are expected to be half what they were during a peak in 1995, he said.

In an effort to balance factors such as dwindling power demand, increasingly stringent regulations and the need to control costs, Johnson said TVA has gradually found a “sweet spot” in its energy mix that relies more on nuclear and hydroelectric sources because of their low-cost, low-emission aspects.

This also happened to put TVA about where it needed to be in terms of President Barack Obama’s plan, Johnson said.

And events after the 2008 Kingston Fossil Plant coal ash spill helped move TVA along this path. In 2010, TVA announced under then-TVA President and CEO Tom Kilgore that it would shut down nine coal units at three different plants. In 2011, TVA announced the retirement of 18 coal units as part of an agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency and other groups. Under Johnson’s leadership, TVA announced in 2013 it would retire eight coal units at three plants and Johnson announced a goal of limiting TVA coal use to 20 percent of its energy mix.

One upshot of the carbon reduction plan is it tends to make nuclear, hydro and other TVA low-emission assets more valuable to the utility, Johnson said.

National and local environmental groups and others weighed in on the news. Stephen Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, commended TVA for already being well on the path called for in the plan.

“This is a historic proposal,” he said. “What makes this such a big deal is it affects existing plants; it’s not just regulations for new plants.”

Move for state takeover of coal mining oversight dead for the year

An effort to have Tennessee coal mining regulated by the state rather than the federal government was abandoned for the year Wednesday, leaving environmentalists pleased and industry advocates vowing to resume their quest in 2015.

Sen. Ken Yager, R-Harriman, sponsor of the legislation drafted by the Tennessee Mining Association, announced the move in the last scheduled meeting of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Chuck Laine, lobbyist for the mining association, said the drafting of a final version of the bill had become “extremely complicated” in trying to assure that all federal requirements for a state takeover of coal regulation were met along with those of state government officials.

The bill would have turned coal mine permitting and inspections over to a new agency within the state Department of Environment and Conservation. The regulatory functions have been handled by the federal Office of Surface Mining since 1984, when the state gave up “primacy” in mining oversight during the administration of former Gov. Lamar Alexander.

“We haven’t had primacy for 30 years. It’s worth waiting one more year to make sure we get it right,” said Laine.

Stewart Clifton, lobbyist for Tennessee Conservation Voters, said that stopping the measure had become the top environmental issue of the current legislative session because passage would have meant “costing taxpayers millions of dollars more, possibly for less oversight” of the coal industry.

He said Tennessee gave up control in 1984 because state regulation was too costly and federal regulation was more efficient and effective. Those considerations still apply, he said.

“This is a great day,” Clifton said.

The move came a day after six environmental groups sent a letter to Gov. Bill Haslam urging him to oppose the bill. Haslam has been neutral on the bill, though expressing concern about any increase in costs for the state. The bill called for a new tax of 20 cents per ton on coal mined in Tennessee with the goal of the levy being to cover any new state costs.

The groups opposing the bill were Statewide Organization for Community eMpowerment (SOCM), Tennessee Clean Water Network, Tennessee Citizens for Wilderness Planning, TN Environmental Council, Tennessee Scenic Rivers Association and the Sierra Club.

Also dying in the Senate committee Tuesday were bills that would have banned or restricted so-called “mountaintop removal” coal mining in Tennessee. Similar legislation has failed repeatedly in past legislative sessions, supported by environmentalists and opposed by the coal industry.

Laine expressed confidence the primacy bill could win approval next year.

State takeover of coal mining regulation comes under fire from environmentalists

A proposal to have the state take over regulation of coal mining in Tennessee from the federal government, scheduled for its first legislative hearing this week, faces criticism as a drain on state financial resources and a weakening of environmental regulations.

Those contentions are disputed by proponents of the move, which would reverse a state decision made 30 years ago to let the federal Office of Surface Mining replace the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation in regulating the coal industry.

The Tennessee Mining Association and Republican sponsors of the bill, Sen. Ken Yager of Harriman and Rep. Dennis Powers of Jacksboro, provided copies of a new draft of the legislation (SB1998) last week to members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

The panel is scheduled to vote on the “Primacy and Reclamation Act of Tennessee” Wednesday at what is billed as the committee’s last meeting of the 2014 legislative session.

As written, the 42-page revised bill calls for a new 20-cents-per-ton levy on coal mined in Tennessee. Renee Hoyos, executive director of the Tennessee Clean Water Network, says — based on 2012 coal production figures, the latest available — that would generate just $218,000 per year, not nearly enough to cover the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) costs for overseeing the coal industry’s operations, even with federal aid.

“This would mean more cost for the taxpayer to provide a benefit to the mining industry,” she said.
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