TVA Amicably Concludes Gallatin Coal Ash Litigation

On Thursday, June 13, 2019, the state of Tennessee filed a consent order with TVA amicably concluding litigation over the coal ash complex at the Gallatin Fossil Plant in Gallatin, Tennessee.

Under the terms of the agreement between TVA, the State of Tennessee, and the Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation, TVA has agreed to close the existing former wet ash impoundments by the preferred method of excavation and removal. The order also allows the opportunity for some of the material to be repurposed for beneficial use. Coal combustion residuals are routinely sold by TVA for safe use in materials like concrete and roofing shingles.

“This agreement to resolve the Gallatin litigation underscores TVA’s commitment to safety and the environment,” said Jeff Lyash, TVA’s President and CEO. “After a thorough review of the scientific evidence, and with the availability of an onsite lined landfill, TVA worked with TDEC to determine that it is the best interest of our customers, the State of Tennessee, and most importantly, our neighbors in the Gallatin community to remove the ash from the existing wet impoundments.”

The Gallatin site has complex geology and groundwater flows. Because of those conditions, and the fact that Gallatin already has an onsite lined landfill, TVA believes that a conservative approach — moving the CCR to that lined landfill onsite, with the possibility of beneficial use — is the best option at Gallatin. Furthermore, an onsite landfill eliminates concerns for traffic and impacts to neighborhoods associated with trucking to a facility offsite. It is also expected to shorten the timeframe and cost for removal.

TVA estimates there is roughly 13 million cubic yards of CCR material in the various impoundments at Gallatin. That includes about 2 million cubic yards of material at a Non-registered Site, which is the oldest ash impoundment at Gallatin, and has mature vegetation. That site is subject to a separate order and may not be moved.

Before moving any material, a detailed process must be followed including a lengthy National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) environmental review, detailed engineering plans and obtaining permits for the new storage capacity at the existing CCR landfill. The Consent Order requires the CCR to be moved within 20 years of TDEC’s approval of TVA’s plan for removal.

At present, it is estimated that the cost of removal could be approximately $650 million, depending on the disposition of the Non-registered Site and potential beneficial use, among other variables. TVA anticipated the costs associated with resolving this issue, which can be adequately covered by the existing rate structure and will be spread across the projected 20-year project timeframe.

“We will continue to work with TDEC and other regulators to determine site-specific solutions that are in the best interest of all those we serve, not just at Gallatin, but at all sites,” added Lyash. “Everyone in the Tennessee Valley has benefited from the electricity produced from coal for more than 70 years, and we must now appropriately manage the legacy of those benefits.”