Courts Rule Against Utilities on Coal-Ash Removals
A federal judge in Tennessee, in an Aug. 4 decision, ordered the Tennessee Valley Authority to remove coal ash from leaking unlined storage ponds at the Gallatin coal-fired plant in north-central Tennessee, and move it to dry storage in a landfill.
TVA, which had estimated the cost of the project at up to $2 billion, has not decided whether to appeal the ruling by Judge Waverly Crenshaw, chief US District Judge for the Middle District of Tennessee in Nashville. “It is too soon to say what the cost of impact of the order might be," said the utility in a statement.
The first of the 976-MW plant’s four units was built in 1953, and the coal ash storage complex at the 1,950-acre site on the Cumberland River in has at least 10 million cu yd of coal waste suspended in water, said a TVA spokesman, Scott Brooks.
A coal-ash spill at Gallatin would dwarf the 2008 rupture of a coal ash storage pond at TVA’s Kingston plant in Tennessee, which sent 5.4 million cu yd of coal ash slurry across 300 acres and into the Clinch River, the Southern Environmental Law Center said.
TVA testfied during the trial phase that it could cost an estimated $2 billion to remove the ash from Gallatin to an offsite landfill, Brooks said.
The Tennessee Scenic Rivers Association and the Tennessee Clean Water Network filed the lawsuit in 2014 claiming TVA violated the federal Clean Water Act. A trial was held in late January and early February of this year.
In another coal ash storage ruling, the US District Court for the Western District of Virginia on August 3 held that Duke Energy violated the Clean Water Act by filing a claim in Virginia to preempt a citizens lawsuit alleging violations at its coal-fired plant in Roxboro, N.C.
“The Court will not permit this suit because Duke Energy appears to be engaging in forum shopping and a ‘race to the courthouse,’ ” the order by Judge Norman Moon said.
Duke was on notice that the Roanoke River Basin Association intended to file suit in North Carolina claiming the coal ash impoundments were leaking into the Hyco Resevoir.