Enviro groups ask to join Tennessee action over TVA’s Gallatin coal waste

The Southern Environmental Law Center said Feb. 5 that it has filed a motion in Davidson County, Tenn., Chancery Court asking that its clients, the Tennessee Clean Water Network and Tennessee Scenic Rivers Association, be permitted to participate in a state enforcement action against the Tennessee Valley Authority.

The enforcement action was brought by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) against TVA for the coal ash pollution of the Cumberland River and nearby groundwater from TVA’s Gallatin power plant, the center noted. 

The State of Tennessee and TDEC filed suit against TVA for alleged violations of the Tennessee Solid Waste Disposal Act and the Tennessee Water Quality Control Act of 1977, stating under oath that TVA was in violation of its permit and the laws of the state for releases of coal ash into the groundwater. The state was prompted to file its lawsuit by the conservation groups’ notice of intent to file a citizens’ suit against TVA for violations of the Clean Water Act.

“TVA was responsible for the largest coal ash spill in the country six years ago, and yet it has not learned its lesson,” said Anne Davis, Managing Attorney at SELC’s Nashville office. “TVA can no longer continue to store over fifty years’ worth of toxic coal ash waste next to a major river in leaking, unlined pits on unstable ground.”

“As a government entity established to serve the public interest, TVA has let down the citizens of Tennessee with its irresponsible coal ash management. TVA must be held fully accountable, and it must put an end to years of toxic pollution of our waters,” said Stephanie Durman, General Counsel for the Tennessee Clean Water Network.

Said TVA in its Feb. 4 quarterly 10-Q filing with the SEC: “In January 2015, the State of Tennessee filed a lawsuit against TVA in the Chancery Court for Davidson County, Tennessee. The lawsuit alleges that waste materials have been released into waters of the state from [coal combustion residuals] facilities at Gallatin Fossil Plant (‘Gallatin’) in violation of the Tennessee Water Quality Control Act and the Tennessee Solid Waste Disposal Act. TDEC is seeking injunctive relief as well as civil penalties of up to $17,000 per day for each day TVA is found to have violated the statutes.”

The Form 10-Q also noted: “[Southern Alliance for Clean Energy], [Tennesee Clean Water Network], and the Sierra Club filed a challenge to the NPDES permit for Gallatin in June 2012. TDEC is the defendant in the challenge. TVA’s motion to intervene was granted in September 2012. Following discovery, SACE, TCWN, and the Sierra Club voluntarily dismissed seven of the eight claims asserted in their petition. TVA moved to dismiss the remaining claim, and the ALJ assigned to the matter granted TVA’s motion and dismissed the case. On November 7, 2014, SACE, TWCN, and the Sierra Club filed a petition for review of the ALJ’s dismissal in the Chancery Court for Davidson County, Tennessee.”

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.