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TVA CEO Tom Kilgore Holds Press Conference

Frank here. In recognition of the year anniversary of the coal spill and as part of renewed communication effort, TVA CEO Tom Kilgore and senior vice presidents held a small press conference today at one of the TVA towers downtown. Kilgore opened with a brief update on the progress of the spill but left most of the time to questions.

Because there were only a couple of reporters present and a couple teleconferencing in, there was the chance to ask number of questions that arose from my reporting. I won't transcribe the whole press conference, but here are a few of those questions (most of them mine) and the answers.

Q: TVA's announced that it would convert its remaining plants to dry ash storage. Do you plan to make the timeline for that plan public? 


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Caption: From left, Senior Vice Presidents Bob Deacy, Peyton Hairston, and CEO Tom Kilgore answer reporters questions Friday at one of the TVA offices downtown.

A: (Tom Kilgore, CEO) We will at the appropriate time.  And when I say the appropriate time, we're not trying to hide it. We've got people working on that now. It's a question of which ones we're going to do first. I can tell you, Kingston's first....Then we're deciding, as we make progress on the engineering, which ones can be second, third, and when that schedule can be available.

Q: And do you know when that will be available?

A: (Bob Deacy, senior VP) There are a couple of things we're waiting on right now. The EPA has some new regulations that we're waiting for--they're going to delay that until after the first of the year. And we're also wanting to submit permit applications that will be in the regulatory process... So as we build that schedule we plan to have this over the next eight to 10 weeks.

Q: In the absence of EPA regulations, do you have a standard for the dry ash containments or dry ash landfills that you plan to make use of?

A: (Deacy) We plan to comply with whatever the rules and regulations are.

Q: And how do you respond to environmental groups that would like to see TVA become a model for how dry ash disposal of coal waste is done?

A: (Deacy) I think we've spoke forward that we're going to convert from wet to dry and continue to lead the industry in dry ash storage and collection systems.

A: (Kilgore) We will be the leader in that. I've heard some folks talk...about a gold standard, but I don't think until the EPA proposes its regulations that anybody can define what that standard really is.

And we also have to take into account, how good is good enough?  And once we find that out, we will be good enough. We will adhere to the regulations. And we know that as we go wet to dry, that's going to help. It's less water in the ash; it's less volume to be disposed of.

But until we get those regs out and finish the final designs...now, I understand some people are trying to get us to say that anyway, but I don't know what we'd be saying until we see those regulations.

Q: Do you have a position on the EPA's forthcoming regulations?

A: (Kilgore) Just that we're going to abide by it. It's not appropriate...given that we've had the major spill, we really just don't feel like it's appropriate for us to make much commentary on that.  We're waiting on the regulations. I understand yesterday they were delayed a little bit. So we'd like to see them get published to see what kind of solution we need to design.

A: (Anda Ray, senior VP) But we have said in the past that we support a national standard because right now there's not one there. And that would certainly be a benefit to everyone.

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Caption: From left, TVA CEO Tom Kilgore and Senior Vice President Anda Ray.

Q: Is there any possibility that if [the EPA] did [propose reclassifying coal ash as hazardous waste], it would affect the disposal from the spill? Is the order in place that you'd be grandfathered in or could it come in and change the process?

A: (Kilgore) It does have the potential to affect how we do the rest of the disposal that's upcoming...if it were declared hazardous with no exceptions.

A:(Ray) We are treating the material now as a hazardous waste, a hazardous material. That's what's going to the landfill in Alabama, and so it is covered under the CRCLA that TVA invoked early on as part of our responsibility. As far as the remaining part of the ash, if it was to go somewhere else or new ash that generated, that's something we'd have to evaluate.

Q: Some environmental groups have recently been calling for the removal of federal exemptions from TVA. A year out, how do you respond to that?

A: (Kilgore) Are you referring to the letter that was written to President Obama? I don't quite understand because we're subject to EPA regulations now, so we're doing a lot of the things that were in that letter already. But we are absolutely subject to EPA regulations, including fines, and we have paid fines in the past.

Q: And as far as the discretionary function exemption?

A: (Kilgore) Well, that's about, you know, what we are defending ourselves on...Frankly, what we've tried to do is settle with most of the people where it is clear cut that we've damaged their property. We've gone to court and we've tried to settle with them. Now, the courts are there and other people have chosen to use the courts, and we'll defend ourselves. But the discretionary function exemption is not that we're not subject to the EPA.

Q: How do you make the calculation when you're considering how much to award a settlement, versus looking at a lawsuit that could go on for years and years, and the costs of those legal fees?

A: (Kilgore) Well, if were to get into settlement conversations, we'd obviously take that into consideration. But really what we're trying to do is decide how much we have injured these folks in terms of their property. And we've gone back, for instance, and used appraisals from before Dec. 22 and negotiated an amount over that to compensate them for any other inconvenience.

Q: And have those settlement practices or offers changed over the course of the year?

A: (Kilgore) No. There are a couple of classes. There are the folks--and I hesitate to use that word--but there are the folks we touched the night of spill. And then there are the folks that were impacted with our recovery. So not all of our settlements have been exactly the same, but they have been consistent. We haven't changed from the last to the first.

Q:  There seems [to be] a renewed effort at communication with the community. Do you worry at all that use of Shook, Hardy & Bacon--most notable for its work with tobacco companies-- damages that perception in the public's mind? Does TVA really want to be associated with tobacco companies?

A: (Kilgore) No, but we selected them for their legal expertise. I didn't even know that that was the case. We selected them for their defense capabilities. We're just looking to defend ourselves as anyone else would if they were sued.

Q: I have a question about the property settlements. I've been told that some of these property settlements include a clause that basically absolves TVA from any future health effects....Is that true?

A: (Kilgore) Some of those do, but we have said that if you still want to go to the health monitoring, you're welcome to go.

A: (Ray) And we've also said, and it's on our website, that if those health assessments determine that you have been affected, TVA will pay financially for your medical expenses. So we have said that.

Q: Well I'm a little confused then, because you guys have consistently said that the ash will not harm anyone's health. So why have the clause in those contracts?

A: (Kilgore) Well, I don't see the inconsistency. We're paying for a settlement; we're asking for a release. But if somebody's extremely concerned about that, we've said you can still go to the health screenings, and if there is something there, we'll pay for the medical tests. You wouldn't expect us to settle with these folks without asking for a release. 

Q: And of the 152 [property owners] you guys have settled with, what percentage have that clause?

A: (Ray) It's a general liability release. It covers everything and they all have it.  



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