Tom D. Kilgore

From Global Energy Monitor

Tom D. Kilgore has been president and chief executive officer of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) since October 2006. He served as acting CEO beginning in March 2006, prior to which he was appointed president and chief operating officer in March 2005.[1]

Before joining TVA, Kilgore was president and chief executive officer of Progress Ventures, a subsidiary of Progress Energy. He also served as president and chief executive officer of Oglethorpe Power Corporation in Georgia. He joined Oglethorpe in 1984 and served as president and chief executive officer from 1991 to 1998. Prior to joining Oglethorpe, he worked for Arkansas Power and Light and for the U.S. Department of Defense.[1]

Kilgore received his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Alabama and his master’s degree in industrial engineering from Texas A&M University.[1]

Retention pond wall collapses at Kingston plant in Tennessee

TVA ash spill in Harriman, TN on December 25, 2008. Photo courtesy of United Mountain Defense.

On December 22, 2008, a retention pond wall collapsed at TVA's Kingston plant in Harriman, TN, releasing a combination of water and fly ash that flooded 12 homes, spilled into nearby Watts Bar Lake, contaminated the Emory River, and caused a train wreck. Officials said 4 to 6 feet of material escaped from the pond to cover an estimated 400 acres of adjacent land. A train bringing coal to the plant became stuck when it was unable to stop before reaching the flooded tracks.[2] Hundreds of fish were floating dead downstream from the plant.[3] Water tests showed elevated levels of lead and thallium.[4]

Originally TVA estimated that 1.7 million cubic yards of waste had burst through the storage facility. Company officials said the pond had contained a total of about 2.6 million cubic yards of sludge. However, the company revised its estimates on December 26, when it released an aerial survey showing that 5.4 million cubic yards (1.09 billion gallons) of fly ash was released from the storage facility.[3] Several days later, the estimate was increased to over 1 billion gallons spilled.[5]

The TVA spill was 100 times larger than the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska, which released 10.9 billion gallons of crude oil.[6] Cleanup was expected to take weeks and cost tens of millions of dollars.[7]

The 40-acre pond was used to contain ash created by the coal-burning plant.[2] The water and ash that were released in the accident are filled with toxic substances. Each year coal preparation creates waste containing an estimated 13 tons of mercury, 3236 tons of arsenic, 189 tons of beryllium, 251 tons of cadmium, and 2754 tons of nickel, and 1098 tons of selenium.[8]

Report identifies causes of spill

A report released in late June 2009 identified the main factors contributing to the massive Kingston coal ash spill. TVA hired engineering firm AECOM to analyze the underlying causes of the spill. According to the report, the underlying layer of the coal ash sludge was unstable and went undiscovered for decades by previous TVA stability analyses. The "creep failure" of this layer and liquefaction of the ash triggered the spill. The report also identified other factors including the construction of terraced retaining walls on top of the wet ash, which narrowed the area for storing the ash and in turn increased the pressure exerted by the rising stacks. Engineer Bill Walton said these factors created a "perfect storm" leading to the Kingston disaster. AECOM's report discounted heavy rains and seismic activity as contributing causes.[9][10]

Inspector General accuses TVA of deliberately influencing report

On July 28, 2009, TVA's Inspector General Richard Moore released a report concluding that the agency had improperly directed AECOM's investigation into the causes of the Kingston spill in order to protect itself from lawsuits. Moore criticized the decision to allow TVA's attorneys to hire the consultant and narrow the report in a way that "predetermined the choice that would be made between accountability and litigation strategy." As a result, the report overemphasized an underlying layer of slimy ash as the trigger for the collapse, an explanation Moore said was intended to reduce the legal culpability and liability of TVA management. According to Moore, "it appears TVA management made a conscious decision to present to the public only facts that supported an absence of liability for TVA for the Kingston spill." The report also revealed internal agency memos about warnings that could have prevented the spill, and suggested that other TVA sites may be at risk of similar collapses.[11]

TVA consultants criticize ash storage operations

Also in July 2009, consultants McKenna Long and Aldridge of Atlanta released a report commissioned by TVA following the massive Kingston spill. The report cited widespread problems with how the federal utility deals with its coal ash storage, saying that the controls, systems, and corporate culture required for proper management of the coal ash sties at its power plants were not in place. According to the consultants, TVA had no standard operating or maintenance procedures prior to the spill and neglected to provide annual training for its safety inspectors.[12]

TVA vows to revamp coal ash operations

TVA vowed to revamp its systems and culture in response to the two studies identifying weaknesses in its coal ash storage operations. The Authority's board called for a plan to correct the deficiencies at all TVA coal ash impoundments, including restructuring the utility's procedures, standards, controls, and accountability.[13] At a July 28 congressional hearing on the Kingston spill, CEO Tom Kilgore testified, "We have to change, and if that means heads have to roll and people have to leave, then so be it."[11]

No bonuses for TVA executives

At a meeting on November 19, 2009, TVA's top executives were told not to expect performance bonuses because of the massive Kingston spill and a drop in electricity sales related to the economic downturn. In addition, about 3,300 other managers and specialists will not receive pay raises in fiscal year 2010. President and CEO Kilgore said, "It was a year overshadowed by Kingston and the economic downturn." Kilgore received over $1 million in bonuses for fiscal 2008, and nine executives who report to him received $1.2 million. TVA directors will extend Kilgore's $300,000 annual retention bonus for another four years, but without bonuses Kilgore's compensation, which includes a base salary of $875,000, is still about 45 percent below the average for top utility executives.[14]

Second sludge release in Tennessee

The weekend of January 3rd, 2009, less than two weeks after the catastrophe at Kingston Fossil Plant, a deliberate TVA sludge release occurred on the Ocoee River, which flows into the Hiwasee and then into the Tennessee Rivers. The spill, which contained heavy metals and other toxic substances, caused a fish kill and prompted an investigation by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. TVA workers had been draining a reservoir and repairing a dam when they released bottom sediment into the Ocoee. As of January 9, TVA had not commented on the situation.[15]

Coal waste spill in Alabama

On January 9, 2009, TVA confirmed another coal waste spill on the heels of its Kingston Fossil Plant disaster. The spill, which TVA said originated from a gypsum treatment operation, occurred at its Widows Creek coal-fired power plant in northeast Alabama. About 10,000 gallons of toxic gypsum material were released, some of which spilled into Widows Creek and the nearby Tennessee River.[16] U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer of California, who is a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, immediately called for a full review of all TVA's waste disposal sites.[17]

TVA shipping coal ash from Tennessee disaster to Georgia and Alabama

In a test case, some of the coal ash waste that spilled in TVA's Kingston plant disaster is being sent to Georgia and Alabama. TVA is loading it onto rail cars, where the company says it will be safely contained.[18]

In Georgia, the coal waste is being shipped to the Veolia landfill in Taylor Count, about 100 miles south of Atlanta. Local residents have dubbed the dump site "Trash Mountain." Sierra Club representative Mark Woodall said the landfill is poorly suited to coal ash storage, because it is "located in a groundwater recharge area, and it's a danger to our groundwater resources in Georgia."[18] In Alabama, a landfill in Perry County in the west central part of the state is also receiving ash shipments.[19]

The ash will be transported from Tennessee to the out-of-state landfills through May 15, 2009. State and federal officials will evaluate whether the tests are successful, and if so whether to bring in more of the TVA coal waste.[18] Just days after news of the test shipments were announced, EPA decided to take over cleanup of the spill. The agreement between EPA and TVA, which was executed under the Superfund law, has EPA overseeing the cleanup and TVA reimbursing EPA for its oversight costs.[20]

Landfill selections raise environmental justice concerns

Both the Georgia and Alabama landfills are located in areas with higher rates of poverty and higher percentages of African-American residents than state averages, a situation that has raised concerns about environmental justice. In Taylor County, more than 24 percent of the population lives in poverty, and over 40 percent of the population is African-American; by contrast, the state as a whole has a 14 percent poverty rate and is 30 percent African-American. Perry County in Alabama has more than 32 percent of its residents living in poverty and a 69 percent African-American population, compared with the state as a whole, which has a poverty rate of over 16 percent and a 26 percent African-American population.[19] Perry County District Attorney Michael Jackson criticized the EPA for allowing TVA to dispose of ash at a landfill in a poor community in Alabama, calling the decision "tragic and shortsighted." He vowed to monitor the disposal site to ensure the process complies with environmental regulations.[21]

Reports show that TVA also considered moving the coal ash to two communities in eastern Tennessee, both of which have populations of well over 90 percent white residents and poverty rates of under 21 percent. The two Tennessee sites considered were Athens in McMinn County and Oneida in Scott County. However, the company sought approval from state regulators solely for the sites in Georgia and Alabama. The communities that are receiving the coal waste from TVA were not provided an opportunity for public comment on the decision.[19]

Existing coal-fired power plants

TVA is the fourth largest coal energy producer in the United States. The company owned 63 coal-fired generating stations in 2005, with 17,647 MW of capacity. Here is a list of the TVA's coal power plants:[22][23][24]

Plant Name State County Year(s) Built Capacity 2007 CO2 Emissions 2006 SO2 Emissions
Cumberland TN Stewart 1973 2600 MW 19,600,000 tons 18,352 tons
Paradise KY Muhlenberg 1963, 1970 2558 MW 14,500,000 tons 83,926 tons
Widows Creek AL Jackson 1952, 1953, 1954, 1961, 1965 1969 MW 9,976,000 tons 33,507 tons
Shawnee KY McCracken 1953, 1954, 1955, 1956 1750 MW 9,852,000 tons 35,815 tons
Kingston TN Roane 1954, 1955 1700 MW 10,100,000 tons 55,473 tons
Johnsonville TN Humphreys 1951, 1952, 1953, 1958, 1959 1485 MW 7,735,000 tons 86,793 tons
Colbert AL Colbert 1955, 1965 1350 MW 7,317,000 tons 39,942 tons
Gallatin TN Sumner 1956, 1957, 1959 1255 MW 6,817,000 tons 23,459 tons
Allen TN Shelby 1959 990 MW 4,811,000 tons 17,413 tons
Bull Run TN Anderson 1967 950 MW 4,523,000 tons 27,987 tons
John Sevier TN Hawkins 1955, 1956, 1957 800 MW 5,199,000 tons 30,126 tons
Watts Bar TN Rhea 1942, 1943, 1945 240 MW N/A N/A

In 2006, TVA's 12 coal-fired power plants emitted at least 100.4 million tons of CO2 (1.67% of all U.S. CO2 emissions) and at least 453,000 tons of SO2 (3.02% of all U.S. SO2 emissions).

Death and disease attributable to fine particle pollution from TVA coal plants

In 2010, Abt Associates issued a study commissioned by the Clean Air Task Force, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization, quantifying the deaths and other health effects attributable to fine particle pollution from coal-fired power plants.[25] Fine particle pollution consists of a complex mixture of soot, heavy metals, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides. Among these particles, the most dangerous are those less than 2.5 microns in diameter, which are so tiny that they can evade the lung's natural defenses, enter the bloodstream, and be transported to vital organs. Impacts are especially severe among the elderly, children, and those with respiratory disease. The study found that over 13,000 deaths and tens of thousands of cases of chronic bronchitis, acute bronchitis, asthma, congestive heart failure, acute myocardial infarction, dysrhythmia, ischemic heart disease, chronic lung disease, and pneumonia each year are attributable to fine particle pollution from U.S. coal plant emissions. These deaths and illnesses are major examples of coal's external costs, i.e. uncompensated harms inflicted upon the public at large. Low-income and minority populations are disproportionately impacted as well, due to the tendency of companies to avoid locating power plants upwind of affluent communities. To monetize the health impact of fine particle pollution from each coal plant, Abt assigned a value of $7,300,000 to each 2010 mortality, based on a range of government and private studies. Valuations of illnesses ranged from $52 for an asthma episode to $440,000 for a case of chronic bronchitis.[26]

Table 1: Death and disease attributable to fine particle pollution from TVA coal plants

Type of Impact Annual Incidence Valuation
Deaths 774 $5.7 billion
Heart attacks 1,139 $124.3 million
Asthma attacks 12,630 $0.66 million
Chronic bronchitis 469 $207.8 million
Hospital admissions 1,121 $13.1 million
Asthma ER visits 739 $0.27 million

Source: "Health Impacts - annual - of Existing Plants," Clean Air Task Force Excel worksheet, available under "Data Annex" at "Death and Disease from Power Plants," Clean Air Task Force. Note: This data includes the following plants owned by the Tennessee Valley Authority: Colbert, Widows Creek, Paradise, Shawnee, Allen, Bull Run, Gallatin, Cumberland, Johnsonville, Kingston, and John Sevier.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Tom Kilgore, Tennessee Valley Authority, accessed December 2008.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Chloe White, "Dike bursts, floods 12 homes, spills into Watts Bar Lake," Knoxville News Sentinel, December 22, 2008.
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Ash spill: TVA triples amount of sludge released," Knoxville News Sentinel, December 26, 2008.
  4. "Lead and thallium taint water near TVA pond breach," Knoxville News Sentinel, December 26, 2008.
  5. "Tennessee sludge spill estimate grows to 1 billion gallons," CNN, December 26, 2008.
  6. "Exxon Valdez oil spill," Encyclopedia of the Earth, access 12/08
  7. Rebecca Ferrar, "The cleanup: Weeks, millions needed to fix impact from TVA pond breach," Knoxville News Sentinel, December 27, 2008.
  8. Coal waste
  9. Scott Barker, "Report: Four factors led to fly ash spill," Knoxville News Sentinel, June 26, 2009.
  10. "Fly ash pond too high, filled too fast," WBIR, June 25, 2009.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Bill Theobald, "TVA led coal-ash report astray," The Tennessean, July 29, 2009.
  12. Duncan Mansfield, "TVA consultants criticize coal ash operations," Associated Press, July 21, 2009.
  13. "TVA vows revamp after coal ash spill," UPI, July 22, 2009.
  14. "Economy, ash spill mean no TVA executive bonuses," Associated Press, November 19, 2009.
  15. "TVA sludge release kills Ocoee River fish," Chattanooga Times, January 9, 2009.
  16. Bruce Nilles, "Coal Waste Spills by the Dozen?," Daily Kos, January 9, 2009.
  17. "'Bama spill: Boxer calls for review of TVA waste sites," Associated Press, January 9, 2009.
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 Jim Burress, "Coal Ash from Tennessee Disaster Making its Way to Georgia Landfill," WABE, May 8, 2009.
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 Sue Sturgis, "Dumping in Dixie: TVA sends toxic coal ash to poor black communities in Georgia and Alabama" Facing South, May 12, 2009.
  20. "EPA to Oversee Cleanup of TVA Kingston Fossil Fuel Plant Release," Environmental Protection Agency, May 11, 2009.
  21. "Alabama DA reviewing options on coal ash decision," WTVM, July 7, 2009.
  22. Existing Electric Generating Units in the United States, 2005, Energy Information Administration, accessed April 2008.
  23. Environmental Integrity Project, Dirty Kilowatts: America’s Most Polluting Power Plants, July 2007.
  24. Dig Deeper, Carbon Monitoring for Action database, accessed Aug. 2008.
  25. "The Toll from Coal: An Updated Assessment of Death and Disease from America's Dirtiest Energy Source," Clean Air Task Force, September 2010.
  26. "Technical Support Document for the Powerplant Impact Estimator Software Tool," Prepared for the Clean Air Task Force by Abt Associates, July 2010

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