Customers of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) are footing the bill for the massive billion-dollar cleanup effort in an east Tennessee community where more than a billion gallons of coal ash spilled creating the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history. However, because of a drop in fuel costs, customers aren’t seeing much change in their bills. If fuel prices creep back up, customers will be in for an unpleasant surprise.
The nation’s largest utility is also holding out hope that insurance will cover the cost of the spill, lessening the impact on its rate payers. Before insurances will commit, the TVA must first lay out detailed plans on how it plans to cleanup and restore the land it damaged, and rationalize the cost.
“We have to come up with those plans; we have to then submit to the insurance companies what those plans are and what the costs are, and then they will come back and set a time when they can sit down and discuss that insurance with us,” TVA spokesperson Barbara Martocci told Nashville Public Radio.
The cleanup effort could take as much as three years to complete. It involves dredging the Emory River as well as removing the coal ash on land that built up as high as nine feet in some areas. As part of the cleanup, the TVA also purchased more than a dozen homes that had been damaged in the spill. The utility is also facing numerous lawsuits from people and businesses who lost property.
TVA officials say they hope to start discussions with insurance companies in the next few months.