Coal ash classification could affect TVA customers’ bills

If the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules that coal ash waste from utility plants should be classified as a hazardous material, the ripple effect could hit Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) customers right in the wallet.

TVA has already said that the billion-dollar cleanup is being footed by customers through their utility bills. That hike is hidden by a recent drop in fuel costs that has helped keep customers’ bills somewhat steady. If and when fuel prices creep back up, customers will see the change. But if coal ash, which contains arsenic and carcinogenic heavy metals, is reclassified as hazardous, it could affect how the TVA continues the cleanup process. And that $1.1 billion price tag could leap even higher.

EPA spokeswoman Latisha Petteway says the agency is still mulling the decision on how to classify coal ash. Both Petteway and Barbara Martocci, spokeswoman for the TVA, declined to comment on how the EPA’s decision would affect the TVA’s cleanup. However, classifying the coal ash as hazardous would almost certainly affect how the waste is recycled. Byproducts from coal-firing plants are used to strengthen building products such as wallboard and cement, and are even used to break down soil and fertilize crops.

The TVA is the nation’s largest utility with nearly nine million customers in Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, North Carolina and Virginia.