Now is the time to get serious about our high hazard coal ash ponds in NC. We need to call attention to the Riverbend and Marshall coal ash ponds and make sure that this never happens to the Charlotte drinking water supply and our endangered Catawba River.
Judge finds TVA liable for sprawling 2008 spill
Manuel Quinones, E&E reporter
Published: Thursday, August 23, 2012
A federal judge ruled today that the Tennessee Valley Authority is liable for the December 2008 coal ash spill that buried a large swath of Roane County, Tenn., under 5 million cubic yards of sludge.
U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Varlan for the Eastern District of Tennessee said that while events beyond TVA’s control caused the ash pond failure, the utility’s actions contributed to the spill. He also ruled certain liability protections do not apply in this case.
“As this Court has held throughout this litigation, negligent implementation of discretionary decisions to design, locate, and construct a wet coal ash facility do not involve the policy judgments and considerations the discretionary function doctrine is intended to shield,” Thomas wrote in a 130-page opinion.
The litigation includes more than 60 pending cases and more than 800 plaintiffs. Varlan said the process would continue in order to determine how much TVA will have to pay in damages.
Varlan said construction problems and lack of employee training contributed to the spill, among numerous other factors.
“[H]ad TVA followed its own mandatory policies, procedures, and practices, the subsurface issues underlying the failure of North Dike would have been investigated, addressed, and potentially remedied before the catastrophic failure of December 22, 2008,” he wrote.
In a statement, TVA said it has taken responsibility for the spill and vows to make it right for residents. Leaders say they have bought more than 180 properties near Kingston, Tenn., and settled more than 200 separate claims.
“TVA remains committed to the full restoration of the community directly impacted by the spill, while being mindful of our responsibility to manage ratepayer dollars,” the authority said.
TVA expects to complete the $1 billion cleanup of the area in conjunction with federal and state regulators in 2015 (Greenwire, Dec. 21, 2011).
Mary Anne Hitt, director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign, welcomed the ruling. “Today’s decision is a victory for every family that was impacted by this tragedy,” she said in a statement. “Forcing TVA to face up to its responsibility is just the first step in ensuring that these folks can rebuild their lives.”
Sierra Club Statement
Court Finds TVA Responsible for Largest Coal Ash Spill in US History
Washington, DC – Today, a federal district court ruled that the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) is responsible for the massive 2008 coal ash spill in Kingston, TN. This spill resulted in the release of 1.1 billion gallons of toxic coal ash, the waste byproduct of coal fired power plants, which covered 300 acres of land and contaminated the Clinch and Emory Rivers. This spill, was the largest of its kind in the United States. Four years on the spill is still not entirely cleaned up. Estimates suggest that the full clean-up will not be complete until well after 2014 and cost over $1 billion.
Mary Anne Hitt, Director of Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign issued the following statement
“Today’s decision is a victory for every family that was impacted by this tragedy. Local residents have lost their property and been exposed to arsenic, lead, mercury and selenium. Forcing TVA to face up to it’s responsibility is just the first step in ensuring that these folks can rebuild their lives
In the life cycle of coal-fired power, it is coal ash ponds like the one at Kingston that pose some of the greatest and most direct danger to nearby communities and ecosystems. The ongoing tragedy in Tennessee, and the danger posed by hundreds of other coal ash ponds around the country, is the sad result of inadequate and inconsistent national standards for protecting communities, as well as regulatory loopholes that allow the coal industry to avoid taking responsibility for its waste. Unfortunately, four years after the TVA spill, these loopholes have not been losed, and these dangers remain in many communities.
TVA has the opportunity to become a leader in energy efficiency and put a stop to tragedies like this in the future. It’s time to implement at least a 1% energy efficiency standard across the board in TVA powered regions. This will allow the responsible retirement of some of the oldest, most dangerous, plants in the coal fleet and reducing the risk of another Kingston.”