TVA’s CEO says trust the agency

ASHEVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA - TVA will install new air pollution control equipment to three coal-burning power plants in East Tennessee, as it has previously pledged, TVA’s president and CEO told a federal court recently.

A climate of tightening regulations, and the fact that TVA has already begun the upgrades, dictates finishing the upgrades, chief executive officer Tom Kilgore said.

¬ďWe¬íve invested about a billion dollars¬Ö in East Tennessee,¬Ē Kilgore said. ¬ďIt would be foolhardy not to complete those.¬Ē

TVA rested its case after Kilgore’s testimony in federal court, where the state of North Carolina is suing to force the public electricity producer to reduce emissions by 2013. That’s the deadline required of utilities within its borders.

Under cross-examination, Kilgore conceded that in the past TVA had made significant financial investments on plans it later abandoned, specifically the construction of a series of nuclear plants.

The agency spent years building several that were later cancelled, leaving the agency deep in debt. Its debt is about $25 billion today.

TVA more recently announced it would put ¬ďscrubbers¬Ē on its Colbert coal-fired plant in Alabama to lessen emissions there, and later switched its plans. Kilgore said the agency intends to put them on its John Sevier plant in East Tennessee instead.

TVA, the nation’s largest public power producer, provides electricity to distributors throughout Tennessee and parts of six other states. Most comes from burning coal, with the second-largest amount from nuclear power.

North Carolina contends that air emissions from TVA’s coal-burning plants are moving over the southern Appalachian Mountains and causing problems in that state that include cardio-vascular and respiratory illnesses and deaths.

Marc Bernstein, with the North Carolina attorney general’s office, questioned whether TVA would really take action without a law hanging over it. He also discussed the years 1983-93, when money was not spent on air pollution control equipment.

Since the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Air Interstate Rule was shot down in federal court this month, the agency has little reason to follow through with its current plans for reductions, the state’s suit argues.

¬ďIt does not change what we¬íre going to do to clean up the air,¬Ē Kilgore insisted in court.

Earlier in the day, a top Tennessee air pollution chief chastised North Carolina for emissions at power plants within its own borders and defended TVA as a model operator of plants in Tennessee.

Quincy Styke, deputy director for Tennessee Division of Air Pollution Control, said TVA’s operations are all properly permitted and he has no doubt that the agency will complete its plans.

He reacted with vigor when asked about North Carolina’s enactment of its Clean Smokestacks Act of 2002, which is requiring utilities in that state by 2013 to cap emissions of haze-, acid- and particle-producing sulfur dioxide and ozone-forming nitrogen oxide.

That state’s sulfur dioxide emissions rose to a high in 2005, Styke said.

¬ďTennessee has not enacted similar legislation because it¬ís not necessary,¬Ē he said.

¬ďWe follow all the federal rule.¬Ö We don¬ít need a statute. Tennessee has been about the business of controlling its emissions.¬Ē

North Carolina officials have said that emissions have been dropping significantly as private investor-owned utilities in the state phase in equipment as the deadline approaches.

Most of TVA’s plants and employees are in Tennessee, though there are two plants in Alabama and two plants in Kentucky.

Witnesses on both TVA’s and North Carolina’s side have testified that reductions of the agency’s emissions would benefit Tennesseans more, because more of its pollution affects Tennessee.


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