WASHINGTON – Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking Member Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., Wednesday questioned whether the Environmental Protection Agency is pursuing enforcement action against nine Tennessee Valley Authority coal-fired power plants that have befouled the air and endangered public health. In a letter to EPA Administrator Mike Leaveitt, Lieberman noted the Supreme Court had recently declined to hear the EPA’s appeal of a lower court decision preventing it from taking administrative action against the TVA, which EPA found to be in violation of the Clean Air Act.
“The health of our citizens and the future of our most visited national park continue to be at risk,” Lieberman wrote. “I remain very concerned about the status of EPA’s efforts to provide needed protection.” According to estimates prepared by an EPA consultant, the TVA plants in question contribute to 900 premature deaths and 19,300 asthma attacks annually. In addition, the air quality of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park “is seriously impaired in part by emissions from these plants,” Lieberman wrote. Visibility is reduced and preliminary data indicate the park will be one of the top 10% nationwide for mercury deposits. Last October, Lieberman asked Acting EPA Administrator Marianne Horinko if the agency intended to follow an 11th Circuit Court of Appeals admonition to pursue its case in court. Horinko responded that EPA was pursuing enforcement. In his Wednesday letter, Lieberman asked what specific action EPA has taken to protect the public health and whether EPA has referred its case to the Justice Department, in order to prove the Clean Air Act violations in court. Please see below for a link to a copy of the letter: