In clean-air lawsuit, N.C. and TVA battle over experts

North Carolina’s federal civil lawsuit against the Tennessee Valley Authority is scheduled to begin in about a month, and attorneys for both sides and gearing up for a battle over experts and environmental impacts.

North Carolina filed its nuisance lawsuit two years ago in a bid to force the utility to reduce the air pollution produced by TVA’s 11 coal-burning power plants in Alabama, Kentucky and Tennessee. State Attorney General Roy Cooper argued that thousands of N.C. residents suffer adverse health affects, such as asthma, because of pollution blowing over the mountains from TVA’s plants. The lawsuit contends that the pollution is a nuisance, and it aims to force the TVA to clean it up.

TVA disputes those claims, arguing that it has spent billions of dollars to reduce emissions and that pollution produced by North Carolina’s in-state coal-burning power plants poses a more significant threat.

Earlier this year, the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals turned down TVA’s motion to dismiss the suit, sending it back to North Carolina’s Western District Court and Judge Lacy Thornburg in Asheville. The trial is scheduled to begin July 14.

Court filings show that the attorneys for each side will be allowed to call up to 13 expert witnesses. The list of potential witnesses remains sealed by the court.

Each side has also filed extensive exhibit lists that offer a glimpse at what’s to come. The exhibits range from the simple to the arcane. Both sides list portions of depositions and experts’ credentials on their exhibit lists.

North Carolina’s list includes photographs of Linville Gorge, Mount Mitchell, the chimney at Chimney Rock and the mile-high swinging bridge at Grandfather Mountain. It also includes charts and reports that will show the impacts of ozone pollution and acid rain and the quantifiable health benefits of reduced air pollution. One exhibit is titled: “Species Fraction of Reconstructed Aerosol Extinction for 20% Worst Visibility Days in 2004 at Shining Rock Wilderness Area in North Carolina.”

The TVA’s list includes charts showing the change in its annual emissions, graphics explaining power generation, and projected emissions calculations for 2013, around the time the TVA says most of its pollution reductions will take effect. The list includes a Biltmore Estate list of outdoor activities, a Blue Ridge Parkway brochure and a press release issued by Gov. Mike Easley announcing the state’s purchase of Chimney Rock Park. The TVA list also includes a few newspaper stories about North Carolina’s tourism industry by the Myrtle Beach Sun News, the Charlotte Observer and The Stanly News & Press.

Click here to go to Xpress Files and download a PDF of the lawsuit.

— Jason Sandford, multimedia editor


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