|Amazingly, TVA had no legal obligation to keep this from happening!|
I guess this is some kind of legal maneuver over “standing” or some such (I don’t know, I’m not a lawyer), but apparently the Tennessee Valley Authority’s lawyers claim that 58 people suing over the Kingston coal ash spill were not harmed by their 1.1 billion gallons of toxic coal slurry spill back in December 2008.
The money quote is this:
The motion filed in Knoxville said TVA has no legal obligation to keep its reservoirs safe for public recreational use and enjoyment.
Really? You so sure about that?:
The mission of the Tennessee Valley Authority is to develop and operate the Tennessee River system to improve navigation, minimize flood damage, and to provide energy and related products and services safely, reliably, and at the lowest feasible cost to residents and businesses in the multi-state Tennessee Valley region. TVA’s integrated management of the entire Tennessee River watershed optimizes the benefits of the water resource. Major functions of the corporation include:
• Management of the Tennessee River system for multiple purposes including navigation, flood control, power generation, water quality, public lands conservation, recreation, and economic development;
• Generation of electricity;
• Sale and transmission of electricity to wholesale and large industrial customers;
• Stimulation of economic development activities that generate a higher quality of life for citizens of the Tennessee Valley;
• Preservation and environmentally-sensitive management of TVA assets and federal lands entrusted to TVA; and
• Research and technology development that addresses environmental problems related to TVA’s statutory responsibilities for river and land management and power generation.
Again, I'm not a lawyer, but it sure sounds to me like TVA has a legal obligation to keep its reservoirs safe for public recreational use and enjoyment. We're always hearing about TVA's tri-fold mission of power generation, economic development and natural resource management. It's something they tout everywhere, including places like this:
What is TVA?
The Tennessee Valley Authority is a federal corporation and the nation’s largest public power company. As a regional development agency, TVA supplies reliable, competitively priced power, supports a thriving river system and stimulates sustainable economic development in the public interest. TVA operates fossil fuel, nuclear and hydropower plants, and also produces energy from renewable sources. It manages the nation’s seventh-largest river system to reduce flood damage, produce power, maintain navigation, provide recreational opportunities and protect water quality in the 41,000-square-mile watershed.
I realize lawyer-types like to weasel their way around the law by saying things like "our client has no legal obligation to keep its reservoirs safe for public recreational use and enjoyment," leaving us all to assume that whatever river and land management they've done up to this point has been out of the goodness of said clients' hearts. But having worked for TVA in a former life and constantly having their trifold mission drilled into my head I am thinking ... no. I have to say all of us in the Tennessee Valley are certainly operating under the assumption that there is a legal obligation to manage the river system for things like recreation which, let's face it, is a key part of the economic development picture.
But again, I'm not a lawyer. I will say this: if the courts agree that TVA has no legal obligation to keep its reservoirs safe for public recreational use and enjoyment, then the first order of business should be amending the TVA Act to make sure that they do.