SELC sues Tennessee Valley Authority over the federal utility’s refusal to release records related to proposed methane gas pipelines
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Southern Environmental Law Center has filed a lawsuit against the Tennessee Valley Authority alleging that the federal utility violated the Freedom of Information Act when it refused to release unredacted records relating to its planned construction of methane gas plants and pipelines.
TVA is currently planning to retire its remaining coal-fired power plants, but instead of replacing them with cheap, clean renewable energy sources, the federal utility is planning to spend billions on another fossil fuel: methane gas. These plants and pipelines will lock TVA into methane gas for decades – meaning it would be unable to pursue cheaper clean energy options, even as the prices of solar, battery storage, and other renewable technologies continue to fall. It is critically important that TVA fully study the impacts of this plan and renewable energy alternatives before making a final decision on how to replace its coal plants. Such studies – and the public comment and review periods that follow – are required under the National Environmental Policy Act.
Even though important environmental studies are not complete, TVA entered into contracts called ‘precedent agreements’ with two pipeline companies owned by Enbridge and Kinder Morgan. Those contracts appear to commit TVA to purchase gas from the pipeline infrastructure intended to support the proposed gas plants. That commitment could interfere with TVA’s NEPA requirements to study the proposed gas plants’ impacts and alternatives and allow for public comment before making a decision.
However, TVA heavily redacted the contracts before giving them to SELC. As a result, the full extent of TVA’s obligations to the pipeline companies under the contracts is difficult to determine. SELC believes TVA was not entitled to redact the subject contracts before producing them, and the redactions violate the Freedom of Information Act.
“TVA shouldn’t play hide-the-ball in the face of a valid Freedom of Information Act request. Because TVA is a public utility ultimately funded by ratepayers, it should be transparent about its arrangements with methane gas pipeline companies. Ratepayers and the public deserve to know,” said George Nolan, senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center.
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