Tuesday, February 05, 2019

TVA may charge customers to cover coal ash cleanup

"The Tennessee Valley Authority is admitting publicly for the first time that it made a deal that could put ratepayers on the financial hook for the misdeeds of a contractor accused of poisoning an entire workforce," Jamie Satterfield reports for the Knoxville News Sentinel. "TVA is publicly acknowledging — via a small section in a 2019 quarterly earnings report — ratepayers may have to foot the bill for Jacobs Engineering’s treatment of disaster cleanup workers at the nation’s largest coal ash spill at the public utility’s Kingston plant a decade ago.

After a 7.3 million ton coal ash spill at the TVA's Kingston Fossil Fuel Power Plant in December 2008, the TVA hired Jacobs Engineering for $60 million to clean it up and keep both the workers and the nearby town of Swan Pond safe from the toxic ash, Satterfield reports.

Jacobs supervisors admitted under oath later on that they lied to the approximately 900 cleanup workers about the site's safety and exposed them to toxins. More than 40 workers have since died and more than 400 are sick or dying because of their exposure to the waste. Dozens of cleanup workers or their families sued Jacobs, Satterfield reports.

TVA customers could be on the hook for a lot of money if the company passes on its expenses to ratepayers. A state investigation into the coal ash cleanup revealed that TVA promised to pay any legal bills Jacobs incurred from lawsuits stemming from the cleanup, and "in its latest filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, TVA is for the first time admitting publicly it also has a deal to cover any damages the sickened workers might recoup — if they win what could be a yearslong legal battle against Jacobs," Satterwhite reports.

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