In a related matter, consultants hired by the Tennessee Valley Authority have found widespread problems with how the nation’s largest public utility runs and maintains its coal ash storage operations. The consultants, in a report issued on July 21st, were highly critical of TVA. Overall, the consultants said in their report to the TVA board of directors that “necessary systems, controls and culture were not in place” to properly manage the coal ash operation at TVA’s 11 coal-fired power plants. Consultant William Idle of McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP of Atlanta, stated:
There was no comprehensive plan agreed to and executed by all the people that needed to make sure a Kingston spill would not occur. Over the years, the risks increased, but they were not addressed. By the time the Kingston spill occurred, there had been decades of neglect.
The TVA board of directors unanimously adopted a resolution on July 21st acknowledging “mistakes were made” and expressing a commitment to “assist, and as necessary, direct management in the clean up and to ensure a more robust risk management system.” While engineers debate the spill’s cause, TVA Chairman Mike Duncan said the bottom line is that “the organization allowed it to happen and we must fix the organization.”
The McKenna Long report concluded the Kingston disaster was a symptom of a larger problem involving coal ash operations throughout TVA’s 11 coal-fired power plants in Tennessee, Alabama and Kentucky. Standard systems and controls “for monitoring and evaluating risks that one would expect to see were never installed.” The report also said communications between four separate TVA divisions with responsibilities for ash retention facilities was “strained and in some instances, nonexistent.”
The consultants said TVA also failed to heed “red flags” from accidents at non-TVA sites, including a Pennsylvania spill in 2005 and a Kentucky mine spill in 2000. They also said TVA did not have any standard procedures regarding operation and maintenance of wet-ash ponds and didn’t put a priority on preventing spills or accidents. The report concludes that TVA also failed to ensure standard training for engineers who inspect such operations.
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