Rally outside TVA headquarters highlights call for virtual sessions for public comments
Knoxville, Tenn. – Hours after the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Board of Directors met, concerned citizens and advocates with the Tennessee Valley Energy Democracy Movement spoke, sang, and marched in Market Square outside TVA’s Knoxville headquarters to make their voices heard on key issues and to demand that TVA hold virtual public listening sessions.
Unlike legislative bodies and government agencies across the country that have adapted and adopted virtual participation and public comment in response to COVID-19, TVA has not held any public listening sessions since it shifted to virtual Board meetings in February 2020.
Knoxville City Councilmember Amelia Parker* said, “TVA, the nation’s largest public power provider, hasn’t held a public listening session in over a year and a half. This is unacceptable for an entity that is meant to be responsive to the public it serves. We’ve held virtual public comment sessions during City council meetings over the last year during the pandemic, and some of TVA’s own Board members joined virtually today. There is no reason TVA can’t do the same for the public.”
In addition to demanding that TVA immediately resume public listening sessions by holding them virtually, advocates at the rally called on TVA to transition to clean energy and protect communities and workers from toxic coal ash.
Gaby Sarri-Tobar, an energy justice campaigner at the Center for Biological Diversity, said, “The clock is ticking, and it’s about time TVA faces the reality of the climate emergency. We cannot afford to settle for band aid fixes and false solutions like gas when our communities are under threat and our future is on the line. TVA must tap into its pioneering spirit and lead the way for a just and equitable transition to 100% renewable energy by 2030.”
Maggie Shober, Director of Utility Reform for Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, said, “Today’s TVA Board meeting was business as usual and continued to highlight TVA’s recent trend of misleading the public, sidestepping meaningful engagement with the public, and failing to make meaningful strides in customer energy efficiency and local solar that can reduce electric bills and carbon emissions while driving economic development.”
Powell resident Julie Bledsoe shared her personal stories with the crowd; her husband Ron worked to clean up the 2008 Kingston coal ash spill and was later diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. “Coal ash is toxic, and we don’t need it left behind in communities and we don’t need it blowing in the wind onto children’s playgrounds like in Claxton,” Bledsoe said. “TVA are the ones that put it there, they are the ones that need to clean it up.”
The calls to action come as residents of Anderson County and Shelby County are speaking out against TVA’s plans for storing coal ash in their communities and as TVA considers options for replacing its five remaining coal-fired plants, which the utility currently plans to retire by 2035.
Today’s rally also follows a powerful “People’s TVA Hearing,” hosted recently by a diverse coalition of environmental and advocacy organizations, during which Tennessee Valley residents made it clear they want more say over their public utility, particularly given major decisions the Board is facing about decarbonizing the power grid and ensuring healthier communities for future generations.
*Amelia Parker was unable to attend the rally and provided this quote prior to the event.
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.
About the Tennessee Valley Energy Democracy Movement
Convened in 2019, the Tennessee Valley Energy Democracy Movement is a collaborative of organizations, community groups and citizens working to bring democracy to the Tennessee Valley Authority energy system and transform it from the bottom up. Learn more at www.energydemocracyyall.org.