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A state's public nuisance lawsuit that succeeded

The decision by Ohio AG Richard Cordray to drop the state's lawsuit against paint manufacturers for lead contamination reminds us to check back on another attorney general's public nuisance suit -- the one brought by North Carolina AG Roy Cooper against the Tennessee Valley Authority for air pollution caused by the TVA's coal-fired power plants.

(Earlier post.)

Cooper appears to have won. On January 13, U.S. District Judge Lacy Thornburg of the Western District of North Carolina ruled in the state's favor and ordered specific steps the TVA must take. The TVA's latest 8K filing is quick and to the point:

On January 13, 2009, the United States District Court for the Western District of North Carolina issued its decision in the lawsuit brought by North Carolina against TVA alleging that TVA's operation of its eleven coal-fired power plants in the states of Tennessee, Alabama, and Kentucky constitute public nuisances. The court held that emissions from the Bull Run Fossil Plant ("Bull Run"), the Kingston Fossil Plant ("Kingston"), the John Sevier Fossil Plant ("John Sevier"), and the Widows Creek Fossil Plant ("Widows Creek") constitute a public nuisance. The first three plants are located in Tennessee, and Widows Creek is located in Alabama. The court declined to order any relief as to the remainder of TVA's coal-fired plants, holding that their emissions did not significantly impact North Carolina.

The judge goes on to order specific actions regarding flue gas desulfurization systems, scrubbers, and nitrous oxide emissions. Cooper issued a statement hailing the ruling's effects on "our air, our health, and our travel and tourism economy."

Rate payers will pick up the costs, obviously; already the TVA had ordered $1 billion in pollution controls for three of the plants. From AP: "The nation's largest public utility, already paying out $1 million a day to clean up a massive coal ash spill in Tennessee, said expenses could rise even more if it has to meet a federal judge's accelerated deadline for reducing smokestack pollutants blowing into North Carolina."

The Tennessean has had excellent coverage, including background materials, to which we link from the main story, "TVA must limit plants' pollution

The ash spill has certainly colored coverage and commentary on the ruling, and the New York Times reached for the grand conclusion in an editorial, "Collapse of the Clean Coal Myth."

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Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.