Coal slurry for a Tennessee Christmas

In an e-mailed statement, RiverLink calls it a “huge and terrible environmental disaster,” one that could be 40 times larger than the Exxon Valdez spill. But this disaster happened in neighboring Tennessee along the Interstate 40 corridor west of Knoxville.

At 1 a.m. on Dec. 22, some 500 million gallons of coal sludge flooded 15 homes in a 400-acre area west of Knoxville. Unleashed by a break in a waste-pond retaining wall at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Kingston Fossil coal-fired plant, the wave of mud, water and coal ash knocked at least one home off its foundation and left a muck as deep as 6 feet. “Viewed from above, the scene looked like the aftermath of a tsunami, with swirls of dirtied water stretching for hundreds of acres on the land, and muddied water in the Emory River, said a report from a Gannett news source in the region. (Click here.)

The ashy sludge contains such toxins as mercury, arsenic and lead—all of which could seep into the ground and flow downriver. It was being stored in an unlined 40-acre retaining pond at the Kingston plant. Cleanup may take weeks or even years at the site, which may qualify for superfund status, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA, the U.S. Coast Guard, state, local and other officials were on hand to assess the damage on Monday.

Recent rains and frigid temperatures may be to blame for the pond collapse, says TVA president and CEO Tom Kilgore. He also remarked that — despite the chemicals known to be present in the sludge — there’s no immediate danger.

But a flood of environmental groups and bloggers begged to differ, citing the many health risks associated with coal ash, such as irritated skin and cancer. “Coal power is dirty — plain and simple,” said Chandra Taylor, staff attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center. In her press release, she stated, “Nobody wants to find coal in their Christmas stocking, let alone coming through their home and polluting their river.”

A drinking-water intake for Kingston City lies just a few miles downstream from the spill, which was big enough to fill almost 800 Olympic-size swimming pools. And the Emory River is a tributary for the Tennessee River. In an effort to slow downstream contamination, TVA officials have been managing river flows and have brought in heavy machinery to clean up the spill zone.

Nearby residents reported that smaller spills haven’t been uncommon at the site.

The Tennessee Valley Authority, the nation’s largest public utility, supplies most of the electricity in the state. The smokestacks of the Kingston (or Harriman) plant can be from Interstate 40 between Knoxville and Nashville. Completed in 1955, the plant supplies electricity for almost 700,000 homes.

“The United States Environmental Protection Agency should immediately establish national safeguards for the disposal of coal wastes and enforceable regulations,” said Taylor.

To see a video of the spill, visit Also visit TVA’s Web site for additional information, including another video and statements by Kilgore (click here).

—Margaret Williams, contributing editor

Dec. 25 notes: Xpress attempted to get closer to the spill site today, but access was restricted. Although the plant can be seen from I-40 near exit 352, the spill occurred on its north side—out of view. The Nashville newspaper The Tennessean reported evidence of fish kills (click here). The nearby towns of Kingston and Harriman are small, with quaint downtowns and historic buildings. A sign near the plant access read “Emergency Scene ahead” and another provided displaced residents with a phone number..



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Editor Margaret Williams first wrote for Xpress in 1994. An Alabama native, she has lived in Western North Carolina since 1987 and completed her Masters of Liberal Arts & Sciences from UNC-Asheville in 2016. Follow me @mvwilliams

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63 thoughts on “Coal slurry for a Tennessee Christmas

  1. How awful – for the families who lost their homes and the generations of people who will be dealing with the consequences of these pollutants in the land and water.
    Tennessee seems to have quite a handful of environmental issues. It is a pity Al Gore’s team doesn’t lobby more for his state. Maybe then Tennessee’s neighboring sister states could find her necessary assistance in dealing with the many unfortunate air quality problems which float into our valleys and in turn dump pollutants into our drinking water as well.

  2. Paul -V-

    Don’t worry. Obama’s “clean coal” advocates will assure us that something like this will never happen again.

    Until it does.

  3. Nelda Holder

    Actually, that NY Times reference of 1.7 million cubic yards keeps going up as more reports come in. Knoxville News-Sentinel now says TVA update to EPA is 3.1 million.

    There is a scary dearth of reporting other than in Tennessee. What on earth is that all about. See the story on that at Poynter Online:

    I haven’t done a totally exhaustive search, but I’ve been unable to find anything in the major N.C. newpapers (The News & Observer in Raleigh and The Charlotte Observer) and I don’t see anything in the Citizen-Times.

  4. Nelda –
    I actually noticed as well that the AC-T was void in covering this major ecological disaster. Not only is it close to home & thus effects us, but it just seems like a good story to pick up! Coal for Christmas…. you really couldn’t ask for a better headline. Yet again another case where the Mountain Xpress is the leader in local news.

  5. nuvue

    This is a very unfortunate occurence. Hopefully we can put some fed. dough into our own infrastructure to avoid another one of these.
    In a way we are all to blame with our continued abuse of electric power and natural resources. Another reason to reduce our collective footprints, and to move toward more sustainable technologies….

  6. Paul -V-

    Vrede: I’m not implying that this is Obama’s (Or Gore’s) fault.

    I’m merely pointing out that this incident demonstrates the myth of “clean coal” – of which Obama has advocated for repeatedly.

    Just because I like the guy, doesn’t mean I’m not going to point out logical flaws.

  7. Jeff Fobes

    Good commentary from Amy Gahran on the lack of coverage nationwide for this monumental environmental screw-up at

    Gahran notes that earlier this month CNN cut its entire science, environment and technology team.

    She doesn’t, however, raise the idea that these days many daily newspapers are likely disarrayed, confused and demoralization.

    She then gives a brief lesson to all would-be journalists — which means every active, thoughtful citizen and noncitizen — on how to use Twitter with a “hashtag” in order to spread news and allow people to find and follow Twitter coverage of the topic.

    In this case, one key hashtag is #coalash and you can go directly to the Twitter feed for this with this link here:

    Gahran provides a couple others in her blog, and then notes the importance of Tweeting and hashtags for citizen reporters.

    She writes: “So the lesson is: When big news breaks in your community, start tweeting it with a hashtag. If no one has launched a hashtag, pick one. … If a hashtag is already in play, use it — consistently. It’s an easy aggregation tool that makes stories findable, and puts them on more people’s radar.” (She provides a link to a quick set of tips for choosing and launching hashtags. The link is to her own blog site at

  8. travelah

    For those of you who wish to shut an entire industry down over this accident, please turn the power off in your home and walk the talk.
    I am all for expanding our use of coal and nuclear power while recognizing that accidents do happen but 99.9% of them are due to human error and failing to adhere to safety standards.

  9. nuvue

    Travalah, as a” mtn man” don’t you kinda miss the days of endless vista’s of the mtns? I for one am shocked at the air quality of WNC and would love to see more done to improve it. I also am a realist and want power generation and for now coal seems to be what we are stuck with…so, I would like to see WAY more $ put into air pollution standards and to raise the emission standards as high as we technologically can. Yes it will cost more, but the long term will be better for it in health and tourism(to name a few). Everybody loves their electricity, but if it costs more to be generated cleanly…..all the better for conservation measures. Higher costs will also spur movement to alternatives and conservation. We cannot afford to let the power generators solve the issues or control policy, or we will get more disasters like this one.

  10. Piffy!

    traveleh said: “I am all for expanding our use of coal and nuclear power while recognizing that accidents do happen but 99.9% of them are due to human error and failing to adhere to safety standards. ”

    You obviously dont have children or you would be much more concerned about potential nuclear “accidents”.

    Also, most people who work against the coal and nuclear power industry have powered down quite a bit. Thats why they arent on these blogs tearing you a new one.

  11. Piffy!

    For those of you who wish to maintain an entirely unsustainable industry just to maintain your own excessive way of life, please expect your own home to be destroyed by a similar disaster in the future.

  12. El Hombre

    The (PFKaP)

    You wrote: You obviously dont have children or you would be much more concerned about potential nuclear “accidents”

    What a pretentious thing to say.

    My own experience is that people with kids are far more careless with the environment than those without.

    Parents (especially middle-class “mommy bloggers”) talk a good game about thinking long-term and ecologically – but they drive SUVs, shop at Wal-Mart, and generally are the worst households when it comes to carbon footprints.

  13. Margaret Williams

    I attempted to get a close view of the plant and the spill site on Christmas Day. A local police officer was stationed at the plant’s access road (further north on this road, the worst of the spill occurred).

    It’s true that every time we hit those light switches at home, we’re supporting such problematic electricity sources as coal and nuclear power (more than half the electricity in N.C. is generated by coal-fired plants). It’s also true that U.S. plants produce much less toxic emissions than they used to; but now it’s clear that the ash they keep from getting in the air … is not safely stored or dealt with.

  14. travelah

    I can agree with much of what you stated, Air quality is a concern and more needs to be done to address this. We should invest in clean coal technology and take full advantage of a tremendous natural resource. One thing I would take issue with (and we have seen this with the recent Cliffs court decision)is the idea that all utilities be forced to invest in the current highest technology. I would rather see that phased in for one primary reason. If we are going to invest in clean coal technology, forcing investment in soon to be obsolete technology is too great an economic cost. The utilities who invest billions in today’s technology are not going to be in an economically viable position to scrap that investment and reinvest tomorrow. Instead, we need to approach this issue in a manner that will allow both the industry and consumers to benefit. Keep in mind, it is you and I that pay for those billions.

    PFKaP, did you know there are no children in France?? Imagine that.

    Margaret, you are making a gross generalization and presenting a fallacy suggesting that if there is one accident, all storage of fly ash is unsafe.

  15. Jeff Fobes

    “TVA triples spill estimate” reports, putting the estimated spill at 5.4 million cubic yards of coal ash. The article notes that TVA has revised its estimate upward three times now.

    from the article:
    “The first was an estimate,” TVA spokesman John Moulton said. The agency then did a precision look with radar, he said.

    When asked why TVA didn’t know better how much was in the pond, Moulton said: “That was the number we had at the time.”

  16. Nelda Holder

    It is helpful to dig into a bit of history on TVA. I don’t know anyone who seems to do this area’s history better in WNC blogs than gulahiyi, where the current post with pictures if “Ronald Reagan, Jean-Paul Sartre, and the Tennessee Valley Authority” (

    Quoting Jonathan Daniels, writing about his years-ago travels in the area now affected: “It is still not Eden: the river runs with its development by the signs of stupid land boom at Muscle Shoals, by tough little towns which wanted the government to give them cheap power to go with their cheap wages, by Scottsboro where the boys were tried, by Dayton, Tennessee, where the South’s laws against evolution were reduced to dramatic and judicial farce. Not far east of it the worst soil erosion in the South has made a red desert of mountain tops. But along such a river a design for Southern living in terms of Southern possibility does grow. A traveler could not hope to see the signs of the present direction of the South without seeing that plan in its place.”

  17. Reality Check

    Travelah … remember … its for the Children. It doesn’t matter how much it cost, who pays it, what it does to the economy or what any other country is doing successfully. Its for the Children!

  18. travelah

    Perhaps upon further consideration, the courts and various environmental activists might share some considerable blame for this matter. The toxicity of fly ash has been greatly increased because of forced technology applications the utilities have had to endure. Regardless of preparation, the utilities have been forced to adopt the most advanced technologies without regard to cost, preparations or environmental impact. As odd as it seems, the toxicity of fly ash has become dangerous because of rushed applications with no thought by the courts or activists with regard to the storage issues. These forces look at technology on paper and do not realize that applied technology requires a much broader approach than some favorable judge in a robe. So, at the end of the day, the environmentalist activists and the courts share some of the blame here

  19. Reality Check

    There is plenty of blame to go around. The EPA, congress, the Presidents, the courts and the activists who put blinders on when considering ramifications of their own actions.

    Here are two excellent examples: Look at what ethanol is doing to food prices and the poor around the world who are eating mud so we can drive a tad further. Its a terrible gas substitute/supplement for many reasons. Space where we should be growing food should never go to grow fuel. How arrogant is that? Also look at compact florescent bulbs. A mercury hazard right in your own home. Glory days!

  20. Jeff Fobes

    Who would favor dropping pollution controls and releasing all the pollutants into the air, for all to breathe or to blanket the ground?(And even if you do argue for dropping controls, which ones to drop and which to keep?)

    Further, the failure of one retaining pond doesn’t damn all the others as a means of sequestering the coalash.

    The problems we face are interwoven, so solutions are necessarily multifaceted. Plus, the more technologically complex we become, the more unintended consequences we’ll face.

    We’re all in this up to our elbows.

  21. tatuaje

    We should invest in clean coal technology and take full advantage of a tremendous natural resource.

    At what cost? More death? More destruction? What if your family was affected like those families in Tennessee? The thing is, your family is being affected, you just don’t realize it yet. And for what? We consider ourselves the pinnacle of evolution, the height of development, awareness, and achievement throughout history. Yet we are killing ourselves and our planet in the process. If this is ‘progress’, I’m down for a little regression…

    From the Washington Post


    Orwellian language has led to Orwellian politics. With the imaginary vocabulary of “clean coal,” too many Democrats and Republicans, as well as a surprising number of environmentalists, have forgotten the dirty realities of extracting coal from the earth. Pummeled by warnings that global warming is triggering the apocalypse, Americans have fallen for the ruse of futuristic science that is clean coal. And in the meantime, swaths of the country are being destroyed before our eyes.

    Coal ain’t clean. Coal is deadly.

    More than 104,000 miners in America have died in coal mines since 1900. Twice as many have died from black lung disease. Dangerous pollutants, including mercury, filter into our air and water. The injuries and deaths caused by overburdened coal trucks are innumerable. Yet even on the heels of a recent report revealing that in the last six years the Mine Safety and Health Administration decided not to assess fines for more than 4,000 violations, Bush administration officials have called for cutting mine-safety funds by 6.5 percent. Have they already forgotten the coal miners who were entombed underground in Utah last summer?

    Above ground, millions of acres across 36 states have been dynamited, torn and churned into bits by strip mining in the last 150 years. More than 60 percent of all coal mined in the United States today, in fact, comes from strip mines.

    In the “United States of Coal,” Appalachia has become the poster child for strip mining’s worst depravations, which come in the form of mountaintop removal. An estimated 750,000 to 1 million acres of hardwood forests, a thousand miles of waterways and more than 470 mountains and their surrounding communities — an area the size of Delaware — have been erased from the southeastern mountain range in the last two decades. Thousands of tons of explosives — the equivalent of several Hiroshima atomic bombs — are set off in Appalachian communities every year.

    How can anyone call this clean?

    Which dovetails nicely into this explanation of clean coal from Slate…


    Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, what’s clean coal? That depends a little on whom you ask. The industry-sponsored American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity defines it as “any technology to reduce pollutants associated with the burning of coal that was not in widespread use” prior to regulations from 1990. By that definition, the group can call any newer coal-based power plant clean. Indeed, as the ACCCE never hesitates to point out, the nation’s coal power plants are 70 percent “cleaner” than they were when it comes to regulated pollutants like sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen oxide.

    The Lantern supposes America’s electricity producers deserve credit for those advances—although it’s worth noting that many of them came in response to new laws like the Clean Air Act. But that doesn’t change the fact that—kilowatt for kilowatt—coal remains just about the most carbon-intensive energy source out there. From the perspective of global warming, at least, the kind of “clean coal” we have now still isn’t very clean.

    Outside the industry, “clean coal” usually refers to something different: namely, the idea that the carbon dioxide produced from burning coal in power plants might be captured and stored, preventing it from contributing to climate change. There are reasons to be skeptical about this idea. While carbon-capture technology has been demonstrated on a small scale, a larger project in Illinois hit a major snag when increases in its projected cost put its funding into doubt. Indeed, building the infrastructure necessary to transport and store all that carbon presents its own huge challenge. Even supporters within the utilities industry admit that a target of 2020 for large-scale tests of the technology is “very aggressive.”

    Still, there’s no doubt at all that coal—as it’s presently burned in power plants, or will be in the near future—is not a clean source of energy. (Even low-emissions coal power would require maintaining those environmentally destructive mining operations.) And that means that the folks who have made “clean coal” into a buzzword are almost certainly using the language of environmentalism to obscure less-noble motives.

    Quite simply, a greener use of coal will happen only with a much tougher effort to cut emissions. Even if we had the technology and infrastructure to capture and store carbon dioxide, that process would likely be too expensive for the coal industry to implement at current prices. According to a widely respected MIT study, coal power plants will use that technology only if they are going to suffer financially by emitting so much carbon dioxide.

    My heart aches for the people in Tennessee, and elsewhere, who are being affected by this disaster. It is not the first, nor will it be the last. It amazes and disheartens me that in our “enlightened” civilization, profit and “progress” are more important than our fellow human beings…

  22. tatuaje

    From Dave Cooper, reporting from the incident in the Huffington Post


    I highly recommend reading the entire article and checking out what he has to say about journalist access to the site, local reaction, and the embedded videos…

    This is a monumental and unprecedented environmental catastrophe. The TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) disaster is now estimated at 5.3 million cubic yards of coal ash, or almost twice as large as the 2.8 million cubic yards generated by the World Trade Center collapse.

    This spill is affecting two tributaries of the Tennessee River. The Tennessee is a major river system and a drinking water source for millions of people downstream in Chattanooga, plus Alabama, west Tennessee and Kentucky. Coal ash is the waste material captured after the coal is burned for electricity – burning coal generates about half of America’s electricity and according to Rolling Stone Contributing Editor Jeff Goodell, there is three times as much coal ash as municipal solid waste generated in America every year. ( “Big Coal,” Jeff Goodell page 123). About 130 million tons of coal ash and power plant scrubber sludge are generated annually.

    Coal ash contains heavy metals like mercury, arsenic, and lead. An article in Scientific American magazine dated Dec 13, 2007 states that coal ash is more radioactive than nuclear waste.

    TVA – which refers to the disaster as an “ash slide” on their website – is telling the public not to worry, the water is safe, the coal ash is inert. The TVA website says “The public may call (865) 717-4006” – but no one answers that phone and it will not accept messages because the mailbox is full (Monday morning 9:27 AM EST).

    The Knoxville News Sentinel (Monday, Dec 29) states “the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported that “very high” levels of arsenic were found in a water sample collected from the affected area and that several heavy metals have also been found in quantities “slightly above drinking water standards.” (ref: )

  23. Piffy!

    “the courts and various environmental activists might share some considerable blame for this matter.”-traveleh.

    Yeah, No One Could Have Anticipated…

    … the breach of a dredge cell storage area that was “55 feet above the water level in the nearby ash pond.”

    No one could anticipate the eventual breach of a dike that was shut down for repairs in 2003, then reopened three years ago…

  24. tatuaje

    Officials at the utility have said the water is safe to drink after a neighborhood flooded Dec. 22 with more than a billion gallons of water and fly ash, a byproduct of burning coal.

    HMmmmm….what does that remind you of?

    In the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center, the White House instructed the Environmental Protection Agency to give the public misleading information, telling New Yorkers it was safe to breathe when reliable information on air quality was not available.

    This sentence was added to a Sept. 16 press release: “Our tests show that it is safe for New Yorkers to go back to work in New York’s financial district.” It replaced a statement that initial monitors failed to turn up dangerous samples.

    A warning on the importance of safely handling Ground Zero cleanup, due to lead and asbestos exposure, was changed to say that some contaminants had been noted downtown but “the general public should be very reassured by initial sampling.”

    The report also notes examples when EPA officials claimed conditions were safe when no scientific support was available.

    Would you drink that water? When? After how many years? Would you take the EPA’s word that it was safe?

  25. tatuaje

    I am all for expanding our use of coal and nuclear power while recognizing that accidents do happen but 99.9% of them are due to human error and failing to adhere to safety standards.

    So an accident like this is the only way coal mining hurts people? Human error? Watch this video (there are 4 more at

    <embed src=”″ bgcolor=”#FFFFFF” flashVars=”videoId=507828761&playerId=452319916&viewerSecureGatewayURL=” base=”” name=”flashObj” width=”392″ height=”270″ seamlesstabbing=”false” type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” swLiveConnect=”true” pluginspage=””></embed>

  26. tatuaje

    well, that obviously didn’t embed….

    here’s the link:

    seriously, if you think coal is “safe”, if you think clean coal is “safe”, watch this…

    These are real people like you and me lil’ t… they’re killing, literally KILLING, people just like you and me…

  27. travelah

    tats, unplug your puter and stop using coal generated electric power. Walk the Talk as the old cliche goes.

  28. Reality Check

    This is an excellent scenario to prove how much better solar power is as a solution for home and much industrial electricity. No mess to clean up and our roofs will hold most of the infrastructure. Wind, hydro and especially nuclear require too many resources and are too invasive for the long haul. A few more technological steps and we’re there. We do have a time bridge to gap and coal will have to be a part of that. When the technology hits though, we won’t have to live in Arizona or have sun all day to get real power. I hope to invest in that company. I’ll let you guys know when I find it.

  29. Piffy!

    “tats, unplug your puter and stop using coal generated electric power.”

    Right, because we shouldnt be allowed to change the system, we should only be forced to live on the fringes of it.

  30. tatuaje

    ats, unplug your puter and stop using coal generated electric power. Walk the Talk as the old cliche goes.

    I’ll throw my puter off the Flat Iron building tomorrow if the coal companies will stop killing people…

    Stop blaming the victims t….

    I will be off the grid in less than a year…Do you think that will stop the corporations from killing us and our planet?

  31. Reality Check

    Tatuaje … Corporations are like guns, it takes real people to pull the trigger. Lots of em. The average person knows whats going on and accepts it as part of surviving. Human nature is the issue here, not exclusive good ole boy networks. Causing change will require everyone to buy off, not just the business elite.

  32. Margaret Williams

    Good posts, all! I’m trying to absorb it all.

    Travelah, I don’t know yet if all ash ponds are unsafe. Do other companies, other facilities do a better job at containing the waste? Do they line those ponds? Do they have plans for how to deal w/ spills?

    Sadly, the EPA doesn’t appear to regulate it because coal ash hasn’t been declared a hazardous waste (tho, if we put it in the air — all that mercury and arsenic and such — it would violate the Clean Air Act). Coal ash is used in concrete. But that doesn’t make it safe to let slide into rivers, streams, groundwater. And the sheer volume of this spill will affect the water. Look how the contamination at the CTS site in Skyland contaminated wells because the EPA, local & state agencies, developers, etc., didn’t do their jobs early on.

    Would you drink the water downstream of the TVA spill? And the affected property owners — their homes are ruined.

  33. tatuaje

    Corporations are like guns, it takes real people to pull the trigger. Lots of em.

    I agree….the board of directors, CEOs, lawyers, lobbyists, advertisers, politicians….

    The average person knows whats going on

    I disagree. The average person does not know that GE, for example, not only makes washers & dryers, but also makes weapons that kill thousands of people every year. Or the effects of pesticides. Or what goes on in a meat packing plant. Or…geez, I really could just go on and on…

    and accepts it as part of surviving.

    This isn’t about surviving. Our consumerist culture is most assuredly not about surviving. Do you need central heating & air to survive? But what other options are the people given? Do you need cheetos to survive? How about Air Jordans?

    Human nature is the issue here

    Oh, I wholeheartedly agree… What has caused us, as a species, to value profit over the human condition? Comfort over compassion? Convenience over common sense?

    Causing change will require everyone to buy off, not just the business elite.

    That’s one answer. However, the people who wield power very rarely give it up without a fight. Unfortunately, I believe it will take a disaster on a grand scale to convince people to stop listening to corporations and their lobbyists & advertisers and start listening to each other and their planet.

    Believe me, I do not expect people to change their ways. It would take way too much sacrifice. Not to mention the people who make so much money and wield so much power would fight tooth and nail to prevent it from happening. They already enslave & kill people to get their “products” onto the market. And that’s without anybody hardly making a fuss…

  34. Reality Check

    Tat – you forgot to mention the stock holders that own the company and vote in the Board. The “Bad Corp” issue boils down to average Americans owning those companies. They know that GE makes weapons, they know that companies make pesticides that pollute downstream. A blue collar guy that bought those stocks thru a mutual fund in his 401k is happy he made money. If you go on and on about the misdeeds of these companies, the stockholders will stick their heads in the sand deeper.

    The current definition of survival includes all the material goods you mentioned above. So does the definition of survival about everywhere in the world. Material things and conveniences. If they don’t have those things now, they want them ASAP and will trample what needs trampling to get them.

    I agree with you that there will need to be something cataclysmic that reduces the population of the world significantly to really turn things around. We are say over populated.

  35. tatuaje

    This is an excellent scenario to prove how much better solar power is as a solution for home and much industrial electricity. No mess to clean up and our roofs will hold most of the infrastructure. Wind, hydro and especially nuclear require too many resources and are too invasive for the long haul.

    In absolute agreement….

    A few more technological steps and we’re there. We do have a time bridge to gap and coal will have to be a part of that. When the technology hits though, we won’t have to live in Arizona or have sun all day to get real power. I hope to invest in that company. I’ll let you guys know when I find it.

    I wish it were so easy…I wish we could keep fixing the problems caused by “technology” with more technology…It just seems to me to be a viscous cycle. A band-aid that helps the symptom without ever getting to the root cause of the sickness…

  36. Sundance

    Actually Paul -V- he supports research and funding into making clean coal technology a reality…if it is even possible to do. If you read further into his plans you will see that if a power company builds or expands a coal fired plant the amount of carbon emission taxes he plans to hit them with will actually make it cost prohibitive for them to actually build or expand an existing plant.

    The other thing to remember is the TVA actually has one of the worst environmental records out there. They get away with it because they are a semi government entity like the postal service.

  37. Sundance

    “Look at what ethanol is doing to food prices and the poor around the world who are eating mud so we can drive a tad further. Its a terrible gas substitute/supplement”

    Well “Reality Check” ethanol is in no way perfect but I would not fault the end product. Food prices soared because manufacturers and the Bush administration decided to take the easy way out and distill it out of corn and wheat rather then develop and use the cellulose process. If they would have used the cellulose process your yard waste, garbage, etc could have been used to produce that ethanol you have such a problem with and you might have actually just kept a few new landfills from having to be built.


  38. Reality Check

    Ethanol is FAR from perfect. Regardless of where it comes from. Its corrosive to your plastic rubber parts in your engine so much so that it can’t even be pumped by pipeline. It is a distraction from the big picture. Al Gore was totally wrong about using it. Its not W’s fault where we are with it now. Big, filthy rich Al started the mess. More excellent solutions from our government.

  39. Sundance

    Actually “Reality Check” I never said it was perfect so please stop polluting the thread by taking folks words out of context and twisting them to suit your own needs.

    As for automobiles your are not entirely correct with regards and the seals, it depends on the year, make model…etc and most cars of capable of running up to a twenty percent blend without damage to your car.

    As for the pipeline you have a point but actually it is not as corrosive as what you hear from the pipeline folks and big oil. Gas is shipped up the pipeline in what is called plugs and the plugs are separated and flushed by water…ethanol(alcohol)mixes with water…hence forth the real issue and environmental problem.

    Actually ethanol was started by Reagan and Carter and has actually been around a lot longer then that so please do not give Al Gore credit for it. I hope your not one of these folks that gives him credit for starting the internet.

    I hate to tell you this but the last push and mandate increasing ethanol production and use as a fuel alternative was started by your precious “W”. It was the center piece of his energy bill which he presented at one of his State Of The Union addresses. The bill and agenda was actually Cheney’s Baby which expended the amount of ethanol that had to be put in fuel. It also requires in so many years that every gas station have at least one E-85 pump. It is the mandate of ethanol use in Bush’s bill which caused expanded ethanol production from grains that caused food prices to start rising.

    Please do your research.

  40. vrede

    Of course, he never actually claimed to. Do you believe everything Karl Rove tells you, Margaret Williams?

    Gore: “… During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet…”

    Of Gore’s involvement in the then-developing Internet while in Congress, Internet pioneers Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn have also noted that:

    “As far back as the 1970s Congressman Gore promoted the idea of high speed telecommunications as an engine for both economic growth and the improvement of our educational system. He was the first elected official to grasp the potential of computer communications to have a broader impact than just improving the conduct of science and scholarship […] the Internet, as we know it today, was not deployed until 1983. When the Internet was still in the early stages of its deployment, Congressman Gore provided intellectual leadership by helping create the vision of the potential benefits of high speed computing and communication. As an example, he sponsored hearings on how advanced technologies might be put to use in areas like coordinating the response of government agencies to natural disasters and other crises.”

  41. Reality Check

    Sundance. I never said you said it was perfect. I just emphasized further on a point you made. My comment was completely in context.

    Ethanol’s corrosive properties are a real issue in a variety of areas and the problem is being R&D;’d by a number of small and large entities. Especially since Obama, and McCain if he had won, will prob expand the program even more. Al has been by far the biggest proponent.

    Batteries, Propane or Hydrogen needs to drive cars and our research needs to go there instead of using resources that need to go elsewhere. Growing anything for auto fuel is thumbing your nose at the poor in the US and the rest of the world.

    I never said anything about W’s energy policy. Where did you get the idea I supported it? Regarding his position on Ethanol, it was dumb and if Gore had been the President, he would have pushed ethanol even more.

    I’ve done my research, you assumed a bunch of things I never said.

  42. Sundance

    “Reality Check” I am not saying Ethanol is perfect and I agree with you on developing hydrogen, CNG, electric cars and all the other alternatives you stated. (It really chaps my rear that Ford, GM and Chrysler are going to introduce cars that will go forty miles on a charge before needing to turn to gasoline to continue driving. Tesla, Pheniox, and Zap are all introducing or have introduced vehicles that can go 110 miles on a charge and only take 10 minutes to charge and yet we are going to hand Chrysler and GM billions of tax dollars to waste to build inferior products.)

    From a realist stand point I think you would have to agree that there has to be a bridge until those alternatives become reality and the infrastructure is in place to support those alternatives. At the moment ethanol is really the only viable alternative but not from grain sources unless you want to continue to give countries that really don’t care for us billions of dollars a year.

    I however do think you give Al way to much credit on the ethanol front as ethanol still contributes to green house gases and supporting ethanol would go against his latest crusade (Global Warming).

    Ethanol or E-85 is basically what was known as Gasohol during Carter and Reagan.

  43. tatuaje

    From the Charlotte Observer today…

    Duke Energy’s eight Carolinas coal-fired plants produce 2.2 million tons of ash a year, two-thirds of it dumped into landfills and ponds. Groundwater contamination forced Duke to close one ash landfill this year, the Observer reported in February. The company is installing wells to detect tainted groundwater at its plants.

    Duke, which operates 10 ash basins, and the N.C. Utilities Commission reviewed recent dike inspection reports following the TVA spill. The most recent inspections at Duke’s plants found no imminent instability.

    “We reviewed all inspections to date, and we’re confident in those inspections,” said Duke spokesman Tim Pettit.

    But the reports, reviewed by the Observer, describe potential problems at dikes that are as much as 90 feet high and 3,000 feet long:

    *A “potentially serious seepage issue” at Duke’s Dan River power plant in Rockingham County, near the Virginia line. A 2007 inspection report recommended further investigation of the dike’s stability.

    *A 2005 storm overtopped a dike at the Cliffside plant in Rutherford County, 50 miles west of Charlotte, causing “major distress and erosion.” The dike had to be heightened by a foot.

    More often, the reports recommend monitoring of instruments to detect instability, cutting vegetation and controlling muskrats.

    The state labels coal-ash dikes at Duke’s Marshall, Riverbend, Buck and Dan River plants as “high hazard.” The labels aren’t based on how safe the dams are, but on the amount of environmental damage and financial loss that could result if they failed.

    The Utilities Commission, which regulates Duke, requires independent safety inspections of coal-ash basins every five years. Pettit said Duke voluntarily does annual inspections, although state records show lapses at some plants.

  44. tatuaje

    From Dave Cooper at the Huffington Post:

    Just-released independent water sampling data from the Tennessee coal ash disaster has shown alarmingly high levels of arsenic and seven other heavy metals, including cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury and thallium.

    “I’ve never seen levels this high,” said Dr. Shea Tuberty, Assistant Professor of Biology at the Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry Lab at Appalachian State University. “These levels would knock out fish reproduction … the ecosystems around Kingston and Harriman are going to be in trouble … maybe for generations.”

    Arsenic levels were especially worrisome. “From the water samples you gave us, we had anywhere from 35 to 300 times that [EPA] level” of 10 parts per billion for drinking water, said Tuberty to Upper Watauga Riverkeeper Donna Lisenby, who floated a kayak around the “ashbergs” on Decmber 27, five days after the disaster.

    Meanwhile, the TVA continues to stall and delay releasing their water sampling data. TVA, which continues to refer to the disaster as a mere “ash slide,” states that “information regarding air quality and water quality has already been published.” Clicking the link provided by TVA for “water sample data” directs readers to data that was taken at the city of Kingston Water intake on Dec 22 and 23, the day of the disaster, and before the material started to migrate downstream. TVA does not provide any updated water sampling data on their website.

    “As I type TVA is trying to conduct their press conference – but they are having a small problem: volunteers from United Mountain Defense have handed out the latest [water] test results to all of the press there and are refusing to stop. I just got off the phone with one of our volunteers. He said at first TVA threatened to arrest him if he did not leave. He said he would not–and all the cameras turned on him.”

    “Gil Francis–TVA’s Public relations guy apparently nearly had a heart attack. If UMD can get this data, why can’t TVA?”

  45. Piffy!

    notice how traveleh left the conversation without backing up any of his claims? Imagine that.

  46. travelah

    PFGKAgP, I haven’t left a discussion and what claim am I supposed to “back up”?

  47. Piffy!

    I thought of the part where you blamed “the courts and various environmental activists” for this accident. Or the part where you implied that tatuaje not using a computer would effectively stop all pollution. Or the part where you think France has no children.

    How about those, to start?

  48. travelah

    PKYGTDqA, what an odd series of charges to make.

    1. I didn’t blame the courts and environmentalists for this accident. I stated they share in the blame for the outcome of it. The reason is simple. Fly ash used to be a relatively safe residual of burning coal in a boiler. The current court enforced requirements on the utilities have the effect of concentrating heavy metals, some carcinogenic, in the resulting fly ash. The court orders and actions have not taken the long term impact into account and worked with the utilities.

    2. No one person can stop all pollution however to be consistent with such a strong opposition to coal powered utilities, unplugging from the power grid would demonstrate one’s commitment to stop using coal generated power. I do not have that problem as I favor coal generated electric power.

    3. My comment regarding France and children was in response to your somewhat asinine comment that I must not have children to hold an opinion favoring nuclear power. The French have children and nuclear power, lots of both.

    Three strikes in one post…. thats not very perceptive of you.

  49. vrede


    1. Wishes that 100% of the toxins produced by coal burning were still darkening the skies of WNC.

    2. Believes it is hypocritical to call for change in the status quo unless one removes themselves entirely from the existing system. Remember that the next time s/he criticizes Democrats while posting from NC or America.

    3. Is unaware that France has extreme problems with its nuclear power program, including the lack of a safe, permanent, waste disposal solution.

  50. travelah

    You have made some rather stupid comments.
    1. That is not my wish at all. Instead I take a rather pragmatic approach understanding that the issues are far more complex than having a liberal nincombpoop in a black rope make an arbitrary decision that does not take into account all the critical issues. The people in the area affected in TN have experienced some of the affects of rash decision making.
    2. It is hypocritical to rail against coal while benefiting from the advantages of coal.
    3. The French generally do not agree with your assessment of their nuclear program. They approve of their programs by more than 2 to 1 in most polls

  51. vrede


    1. Arbitrary? We’re talking about removing toxins from our kids’ air. If you blame judges and environmentalists for the ash-aster by doing so, rather than TVA for poor management of the ash, I’d hate to see what your idea of a non-rash decision is.

    2. Right. Unless I install a windmill on my rental property, I’m a hypocrite if I urge Duke to change its actions. You have a pretty broad definition of hypocrisy. So, do you get any benefits at all from the Dem-led NC government? If so, either leave or continue to be “hypocritical” critic of it.

    3. Too bad the unborn French grandchildren weren’t polled.

  52. travelah

    vrede, again, you are being a “non-thinker”.
    1. You need to learn to pay attention. The courts and activists SHARE the blame. We are talking about removing dispersed pollutants from the stacks and concentrating them in a sludge. We have taken a “relatively” harmless pollutant and turned it into a concentrated carcinogen in “haste”
    2. You are a hypocrite if you rail against coal power and continue to consume coal power. The proper course of action is to work toward a workable solution rather than rail against that which you use (and use knowingly) .. unplug if you don’t like it.
    3. Hopefully the unborn children can live long enough to be born. The greater threat to them is not nuclear power but mothers and advocates interested in killing them before they get the chance. Otherwise, your objection is groundless.

  53. vrede


    1. Silly, unscientific, and counter to public health principles.

    2. Impractical for most. All still have a voice. If you don’t like the wise and perfectly legal influence that environmentalists and judges have had over coal pollution management, why don’t you unplug, “hypocrite”? Logic wasn’t your strong suit in school, was it?

    3. Non sequitur. Those that are born will pay. The others don’t exist. BTW, radioactive pollution causes spontaneous abortions (miscarriages). Or is it just women terminating their own pregnancies that you object to?

  54. Piffy!

    “You are a hypocrite if you rail against coal power and continue to consume coal power. The proper course of action is to work toward a workable solution rather than rail against that which you use (and use knowingly) .. unplug if you don’t like it. ”

    I still fail to see the logic in this one, beefy.

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