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Tr-Ash Talk: TVA Victims Want Justice

As a federal trial on the TVA Kingston coal ash disaster continues in Knoxville, some of our elected leaders in Congress are including the coal ash rule (already delayed due to heavy industry opposition) in a list of rules that will be analyzed - and likely even more delayed.

But more on that later.

The trial is in response to the December 2008 TVA coal ash disaster, which spilled more than 1 billion gallons of toxic coal ash sludge into the Emory River, rupturing a natural gas line, disrupting power and transportation, destroying three homes and forcing the evacuation of a nearby community. Nearly three years later, 230 plaintiffs are suing the TVA over property damage and the ill health effects caused by the spill.

What is truly outrageous in the news articles detailing the trial, is how the TVA went to such lengths to excuse themselves from responsibility.

In this Knoxville News Sentinel article, an engineering consultant who was hired by the TVA, testifies that upon his hiring, TVA officials told him that he “must not cast blame on any individual at TVA” and that he “should look for a no-fault scenario to explain the disaster.”

Oh really? So it couldn’t have been the bursting of your coal ash waste pond that caused such a disaster? Nonsense!

The article goes on to include testimony from a TVA engineer, Chris Buttram, who admits to doctoring a TVA spill report (changing the wording of his report and removing data from a groundwater monitoring program) because “it was confusing the results.”

One of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, Jeff Friedman, said Buttram and other TVA engineers were not trained properly by TVA to inspect or maintain coal ash ponds. Buttram also was given no guidance on how to properly inspect the Kingston site.

This trial is expected to last a few weeks and is just the beginning  of the litigation TVA is facing. More than three dozen lawsuits are set for a Nov. 1 trial. We’ll keep you posted on these developments.

So back to this nonsense in the House. The coal ash rule is included in the TRAIN Act, a bill that mandates interagency economic analyses of EPA rules, and delays two rules on power plant emissions.

Why is it that these House leaders are blocking the government from protecting people but at the same time they want the government to do more studies to protect dirty polluters?

Yes, there really is no logical answer to that question.