The Environmental Journal of Southern Appalachia

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Attendees raise concerns about coal ash; call for more clean energy, transparency and public engagement from TVA

Nearly 100 people from Tennessee and other states served by the Tennessee Valley Authority joined a virtual People’s TVA Hearing. The hearing on Aug. 4 was organized by the Tennessee Valley Energy Democracy Movement (TVEDM). It included a public comment session and multiple breakout sessions for attendees to discuss specific issues facing TVA and the Tennessee Valley. 

TVA has not held any public listening sessions in a year and a half because of the Covid-19 pandemic, and attendees called on TVA to resume such sessions as soon as possible when the pandemic ebbs.

“TVA talks a good game about being public power but they are simply not walking the walk,” said Barbara Mott of Knoxville. “Hiding from the people is not the answer.”

Hearing attendees highlighted a number of urgent issues facing TVA during their public comments and breakout discussions, including coal ash pollution, moving to clean energy, issues facing TVA’s workers, and high energy-cost burdens. 

Powell resident Julie Bledsoe, whose husband Ron worked to clean up the 2008 Kingston Fossil Plant coal slurry spill and was later diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, said coal ash is “extremely toxic” and, because TVA’s contractor did not protect coal ash cleanup workers, “We've been to quite a few funerals due to that. A lot of families have lost their loved ones, and many are sick and suffering.” 

Many of the attendees and public commenters also called for TVA to transition quickly to clean energy. "We believe TVA can lead the country by achieving 100 percent clean electricity by 2030, and should not be investing in new fossil gas at a time when the climate crisis demands we move away from polluting fossil fuels. If TVA were to actually allow the public to make their voices heard, they'd likely hear that same thing from folks all over the Valley,” said Brady Watson, an organizer with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy

Advocates with the Tennessee Valley Energy Democracy Movement are soliciting written and video comment submissions, as well as planning a rally outside TVA’s Knoxville headquarters on Aug. 18 (the date of TVA’s next board meeting) to highlight the need for the return of public listening sessions.

Convened in 2019, the Tennessee Valley Energy Democracy Movement is a collaborative of organizations, community groups and citizens working to bring democracy to the Tennessee Valley Authority energy system and transform it from the bottom up. 

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