TVA: NC emissions ruling means expenses may rise

Associated Press • Jan 20, 2009 at 12:00 AM

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The nation’s largest public utility, already paying out $1 million a day to clean up a massive coal ash spill in Tennessee, said Tuesday expenses could rise even more if it has to meet a federal judge’s accelerated deadline for reducing smokestack pollutants blowing into North Carolina.

U.S. District Judge Lacy Thornburg ruled last week in a lawsuit brought by the state of North Carolina that the Tennessee Valley Authority must reduce smog, haze and acid rain-causing emissions produced by four coal-fired power plants closest to North Carolina.

Three of those plants are in Tennessee, including the Kingston Fossil Plant where 1.1 billion gallons of ash sludge flooded a rural neighborhood and flowed into the Emory River three days before Christmas. The fourth plant is in Alabama.

In a filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission, TVA said Tuesday that complying with Thornburg’s order could force the agency to “take additional measures not currently planned or scheduled” to reduce smokestack emissions.

TVA already has ordered more than $1 billion of pollution controls for three of these plants by 2013. The judge’s order would complete that work sooner, and require additional measures TVA isn’t currently contemplating.

“Advancing the construction schedule or taking additional actions could increase TVA’s expenses or cause TVA to change the way it operates these facilities,” TVA Chief Financial Officer Kim Greene wrote in the SEC filing.

TVA spokeswoman Barbara Martocci could not say Tuesday how much this will cost or how it might change management of TVA’s fleet of 11 coal-fired power plants. The agency is considering an appeal.

“TVA is looking at what our response will be as we review the order and its implications,” she said.

The Knoxville-based TVA provides electricity to 158 distributors serving nearly 9 million people in Tennessee and parts of Mississippi, Alabama, Kentucky, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia.

North Carolina’s lawsuit argued TVA wasn’t doing enough to control sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and mercury pollution that drifts into North Carolina, violating the state’s Clean Smokestacks Act.

In its SEC filing, TVA said Thornburg’s ruling would require:

• Year-round operation of a newly installed scrubber that removes sulfur and mercury and a selective catalytic reduction system or “SCR” that removes nitrogen at the Bull Run plant in Tennessee.

• Year-round operation of two scrubbers nearing completion and a planned SCR at the Kingston plant by the end of 2010.

• Installation of two scrubbers and new SCRs at the John Sevier plant in Tennessee by 2011. TVA had been planning to complete the scrubbers by 2013 and the SCRs by 2015.

• Finish upgrading existing scrubbers for two of eight boilers at the Widows Creek plant in Alabama and then add scrubbers for the six other boilers and SCRs for the entire plant by 2013. TVA’s current plans don’t go beyond upgrades for the existing scrubbers.

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