Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Hello, EPA? Tennessee Calling

This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard:
Tennessee Congressmen Zach Wamp and Lincoln Davis are hoping to bail out TVA by asking for a $25 million federal welfare package to subsidize cleanup of the agency's recent toxic ash spill.

The two congressmen want the money to come from President Obama's stimulus package, a Rooseveltian public projects scheme designed to beef up the economy. But while bailouts are all the rage these days--and the congressmen are only trying to help TVA customers, who'll pick up the tab for the agency's negligence--the move looks suspiciously like pork. Simply having the feds pick up the tab won't create any new jobs.

I’ll ignore Kotz’ ridiculous assertion that all federal spending is somehow “welfare” or “pork.” What I don’t get is why the Kingston coal ash site is not eligible for Superfund emergency response funds. That’s what the fund is for: to cleanup after emergencies,

such as fires, train derailments, and floods, involving the release of hazardous substances.

I also don’t understand this letter I received from Sen. Bob Corker:

I have talked directly with Roane County Mayor Mike Farmer and TVA CEO Tom Kilgore and assured all involved that I will support appropriate measures at the federal level, however I am opposed to spending federal taxpayer money to support cleanup efforts at Kingston. There's been an effort through the years to cause TVA to be a self-standing entity, to have a corporate-like board and to run independently.  I think when we start seeking federal dollars to deal with TVA, we start a process of unwinding something that took several years to put in place. In meetings with TVA though, I have asked for and received assurance from them that they will make every effort possible to limit the burden on TVA ratepayers and ensure that those affected by this incident are taken care of and their homes, property, and livelihoods restored.

Oh, well, I’m sure that everything will be okay, then.

I don’t know what TVA’s “ self-standing,” “corporate-like” structure has to do with the need to protect the environment and the health of those who depend on the air, water and soil in the affected area. Superfund does not distinguish between toxic pollution caused by “corporate” or “government” entities. Tennessee’s Superfund sites include both.

I admit to being a little out of the loop on the current status of the Superfund. Originally the guiding principal of the Superfund was "the polluter pays." I know over the years some of the country’s biggest polluters have tried to roll back the Superfund legislation, and I recall the tax on toxic chemicals which partially funded the program was eliminated back in the ‘90s. I read that the fund is now paid for out of government appropriations, instead of the “polluter pays” rule that had been the program’s hallmark. I’m sure eight years of an industry-friendly EPA under the mismanagement of tools like Stephen Johnson hasn’t helped. But the program is still in existence.

Why can’t the people of East Tennessee make use of it? Why are our representatives in Congress not working with the EPA to ensure this happens?