Tennessee Coal Ash Cleanup Costs Keep Rising

I guess you could say I'm in a Tennessee state of mind these days.

Lately, I've been blogging the zany boycott launched against the Volunteer State by angry mountaintop miners who demand the right to blow up Tennessee's beloved mountains, which are far more valuable intact -- to the tune of $14.2 billion per year from tourism.

Speaking of billions of dollars, America's addiction to dirty coal power is costing the state in other ways.  The nation's largest public utility, the Tennessee Valley Authority, just raised its estimate for cleaning up its massive coal ash spill to $1.2 billionThat adds up to roughly to $1 per gallon of toxic coal sludge that covered communities downstream of TVA's Kingston power plant last December.  

[Photo Credit: Chris Irwin, Photographer; South Wings, Transportation]

TVA is now blaming the costly cleanup for its third-quarter loss of $167 million.  Well, that old saying about those playing with fire getting burned seems awfully appropriate in this case. 

Unfortunately, that pinch in TVA's pocket book pales in comparison to the costs being paid by the victims of the utility's negligence.  Even if some people get compensated for their property loss, their quality of life along the Emory River will never be restored -- no matter how much cleaning up TVA manages to do.

It's a good thing that some elected leaders appear to be heeding the lessons learned from the terrible tragedy in Tennessee.  North Carolina legislators and Gov. Bev Perdue have passed a law that tightens state oversight on coal ash ponds.  The dams on the ponds will be inspected every two years by the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources.  Of 44 dams deemed "high-hazard" by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 12 were in North Carolina.

"Because of potential risk posed by the location of North Carolina's coal ash ponds, we must provide greater oversight and more frequent inspections," said Gov. Perdue. "This legislation will keep our citizens safer and our dams more secure."