Wednesday, September 08, 2010

TVA's Millions for Toxic Ash Spill Finds Odd Uses

The Knoxville News Sentinel details some true oddities as TVA attempts to "repair" the massive damage from their horrific ash spill to local communities. The KNS reports, among other things:

After months of talks, a deal had been struck for TVA to give Roane County governments $43 million to help offset the effects of the Dec. 22, 2008, ash spill.

But as the anniversary of that pronouncement looms, questions remain.

The special eight-member Roane County Economic Development Foundation created to approve funding requests has met four times since it organized.

That board - four TVA executives and the mayors of Kingston, Rockwood, Harriman and Roane County - has encumbered all but $900,000 of that payoff in those brief sessions.

Some contend the money was allocated for projects that have nothing to do with the ash spill, including $1.7 million for restoration of an old Harriman movie theater.

Others have questioned if funding those projects is a proper use of TVA ratepayer money.

The foundation's charter states the money is for "economic development projects, including infrastructure capital projects such as school, sewer and water projects, which will contribute to the long-term recovery and success of the communities affected by the ash slide…''

A University of Tennessee professor who studies environmental disasters and the responses to them calls the payment the equivalent of "slush funds that just go to these general purpose needs."


The Swan Pond community next to the power plant continues to be affected daily by the disaster, Ellis said.

Residents there "received nothing from the $43 million," he said, and there were no community meetings to ask for citizen input.

Button and Ellis note the foundation doesn't include as members any local citizens hard-hit by the spill.

"I think it was the wrong move to put so many politicians on the foundation," Ellis said. "There should have been some regular people from the community."


Roane Views has also been on the story, including the cast sums of money to be spent on PR efforts to bolster TVA's disaster.

Sadly, the EPA had bypassed those in East Tennessee as they held hearings on the dangers/risks/effects of such a massive spill. Finally, the EPA has set a date to hear from the victims of that enormous disaster - Roane Views says a hearing is set in Knoxville.