Office of Inspector General Urged to Begin Formal Investigation
Knoxville, Tennessee— Four nonprofit organizations called today for a federal investigation of newly uncovered records showing that the Tennessee Valley Authority used $3 million of ratepayer money to fund litigation and lobbying efforts by organizations that fight the EPA’s Clean Air Act rules. TVA is the largest public energy provider in the United States.
Today’s letter from Energy Alabama, the Center for Biological Diversity, Appalachian Voices, and Southern Alliance for Clean Energy urged TVA’s Office of the Inspector General to begin a formal investigation to determine if the utility violated its board-approved policies.
Documents obtained recently through a Freedom of Information Act Request show that between 2015 and 2018, TVA staff spent more than $3 million in customer money on legal fees to the Utility Air Regulatory Group. The UARG is known for lobbying against science-based air pollution and climate regulation.
“Customers throughout the Tennessee Valley have been forced to pay for one arm of the federal government to take legal action against another arm of the federal government,” said Daniel Tait, chief operating officer of Energy Alabama. “It’s asinine and TVA would be better served investing in carbon-free technology like energy efficiency and renewable energy.”
“Rather than leading the way in cleaning up the energy sector, TVA is funding outside organizations actively fighting the renewable energy transition,” said Gaby Sarri-Tobar, energy justice campaigner in the Center’s Energy Justice program. “We call on TVA’s inspector general to ensure that the nation’s largest public energy provider stops abusing ratepayer funds in this manner.”
Last year, Energy Alabama, the Center, Appalachian Voices, and others demanded that TVA stop giving millions of dollars in ratepayer money to the same groups at issue here. The rulemaking petition detailed that TVA is violating its customers’ First Amendment rights by compelling them to fund this work against the interest of Tennessee Valley communities. But this funding stream continues.
“Workers who cleaned up the Kingston spill in 2008 are still suffering and dying from their exposure to TVA’s toxic coal ash,” said Bri Knisley, Tennessee campaign coordinator at Appalachian Voices. “It’s shameful that after more than a decade of this suffering, TVA chose to spend more than $3 million of ratepayer money to fund a group that fights policies that protect our clean air and public health.”
“When the people of the Tennessee Valley pay their electric bills, they do not expect the utility to use their money to fight environmental regulations. And yet that is what TVA has done,” said Maggie Shober, director of utility reform at Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “This is a breach of the regulatory compact that allows utilities their monopoly. Without the ability to switch to another provider, TVA customers are stuck paying for this unethical use of funds. It is even more egregious considering TVA is a part of the very federal government it is lobbying or litigating against.”
Last month, TVA CEO and President Jeff J. Lyash said he plans to decarbonize TVA by 2050, but he did not explain how TVA would achieve that nonbinding goal. Like other major utilities, TVA still depends heavily on fossil fuels. Even with this new goal, the utility plans to continue to build new fracked gas plants, relying on false solutions that will worsen climate injustice in the Tennessee Valley.
About The Center for Biological Diversity
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
About Energy Alabama
Energy Alabama is a membership-based nonprofit organization accelerating Alabama’s transition to sustainable energy. We accomplish our mission by educating at all levels, informing smart energy policy, building the next generation workforce, and providing technical assistance to deploy more sustainable energy. We believe in sustainable energy for all.
About Appalachian Voices
Appalachian Voices works at the nexus of the ongoing shift from fossil fuels to clean, 21st-century energy sources — we fight mountaintop-removal coal mining, fracked-gas pipelines and other harms to the people and places of Appalachia, and we advance energy efficiency, solar and wind power, and other economic solutions that create community wealth and sustain Appalachia’s mountains, forests and waters.
About Southern Alliance for Clean Energy
Since 1985, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy has worked to promote responsible and equitable energy choices to ensure clean, safe, and healthy communities throughout the Southeast. Learn more at www.cleanenergy.org.