Tom Kilgore

“Unfortunately, the steps that we didn’t take in the past will now fall on our ratepayers, and we will have to pay for that through our electric bills.” -Thomas Kilgore
Biography: 
  • 2006 - : Tennessee Valley Authority, president and CEO
  • 2005 - 2006: Tennessee Valley Authority: president and COO
  • 1998 - 2005, senior vice president of power operations; president and CEO of Progress Ventures, (Progress Energy subsidiary)
  • 1991-1998: Oglethorpe Power Corporation, president and CEO

Education: University of Alabama, bachelor’s in mechanical engineering; Texas A&M University, master’s in industrial engineering

Board roles: Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (board member), Nuclear Energy Institute (executive committee member)

Kilgore’s compensation from TVA totaled $3.6 million in fiscal year 2010. Kilgore made $2.47 million in fiscal year 2008 and $1.2 million in fiscal year 2009. The dip in pay for 2009 was decided by the TVA board in light of a disaster at one of TVA’s coal ash impoundments in December of 2008.
 

Quotes: 

On the nuclear reactor, Bellefonte 1, being too expensive:
“I can’t forecast out 8 or 10 years. We just know when we get there, Bellefonte 1 is a good economic proposition.”
New York Times, June 6, 2011

On the Kingston coal ash spill:
“Unfortunately, the steps that we didn’t take in the past will now fall on our ratepayers, and we will have to pay for that through our electric bills.”
Hearing, House Subcommittee on Water Resources & Environment

July 28, 2009

On the Kingston coal ash spill:
“While the ash material deposited offsite is not classified as a hazardous waste under the standards of the Environmental Protection Agency, it is to be contained and I don’t want to minimize that.”
Hearing, Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works

January 8, 2009

On the Kingston coal ash spill:
“These metals and arsenic that you refer to are concentrated in the burning of coal. They’re out there in a lot of substances, you know, they are elements and we concentrate them as we burn, and they are in this plight.”
Hearing, Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works

January 8, 2009

Evidence: 

Coal ash disaster:

On the night of December 22, 2008, the coal ash pond at TVA’s Kingston coal plant in Harriman, Tennessee, collapsed. The spill exceeded one billion gallons, covering 300 or more acres with as much as 6 feet of coal ash waste, the toxic residue left over from burning coal to fire power plants. The spill destroyed homes and caused up to $1 billion in environmental damage, making it the largest spill in the history of U.S. industry.

Kilgore compared the scene to a “moonscape” and promised to clean up the mess in 6 to 8 weeks. TVA quickly retracted that statement, saying the company would not announce a timeframe.

While testifying on the spill before a Senate committee in January of 2009, Kilgore faced questions about earlier leaks at the Kingston coal ash impoundment in 2003 and 2006. Kilgore replied that those leaks occurred at different spots along the impoundment than would be reflected in the northern direction of the spill. “We had outside experts help us with those fixes. The most expensive solution wasn’t chosen. Obviously that looks bad for us.” A report [PDF] by a TVA-hired firm concluded that the spill was caused in part by a layer of ash sludge “slimes” that caused a northern section of the impoundment to creep until the collapse. The integrity of that report was called into question by TVA’s inspector general [PDF]. The firm responsible for the report, AECOM, is also an associate member of the American Coal Ash Association, whose mission seeks to “advance the management and use of coal combustion products in ways that are environmentally responsible, technically sound, commercially competitive, and supportive of a sustainable global community.”

In November 2010, Kilgore claimed: “We’ve got everything out of the river and it’s probably left better than it was before the spill.” However, over 220 samples taken between January 2009 and June 2010 by scientists at Duke University found continued elevated concentrations of arsenic and other lingering contamination to the area’s environment.


Coal ash regulation:

After postponing a proposed coal ash regulation in December of 2009, the EPA proposed regulations for the handling of the coal ash in June 2010. The proposal put forth two options: labeling coal ash as a “special,” or hazardous, waste and implementing stricter standards for coal ash management, or treating coal ash as non-hazardous and imposing less strict management standards. The EPA has yet to announce its final decision on the regulation.

Despite the fact that coal ash contains known carcinogenic, neurotoxic and radioactive components, it is currently less regulated than household garbage.

There are currently no regulations for coal ash impoundments. A significant portion of coal ash waste is reused in construction as gravel filler or a supplement in concrete production. Coal ash is also used as a traction agent on snowy roads, which Physicians for Social Responsibility has warned creates a risk of exposure to people through leaching. A March 2011 report by the EPA Inspector General found that EPA failed to properly investigate potential health risks of coal ash reuse when creating a coal ash reuse partnership [PDF].

During his testimony on the Kingston spill before the Senate, Kilgore highlighted the “beneficial use” of coal ash waste, but also alluded to the dangers of storing coal ash. “These metals and arsenic that you refer to are concentrated in the burning of coal. They’re out there in a lot of substances, you know, they are elements and we concentrate them as we burn, and they are in this plight.”

When asked about the EPA’s plans for regulations on coal ash in December 2009, Kilgore responded: “It’s not appropriate...given that we’ve had the major spill—we really just don't feel like it’s appropriate for us to make much commentary on that.” Andy Ray, TVA’s senior VP followed up: “But we have said in the past that we support a national standard because right now there’s not one there. And that would certainly be a benefit to everyone.”


Nuclear power:

Tom Kilgore is a strong supporter of nuclear energy. This view was reflected in an July 2011 op-ed by Kilgore in the New York Times, in which Kilgore defended nuclear power as an energy option in light of the company’s aspirations to complete a reactor in Alabama. This reactor, Bellefonte 1, faces questions about the soundness of its location as well as the $6-plus billion it is estimated to cost come completion. Regarding such costs, Kilgore said: “I can’t forecast out 8 or 10 years. We just know when we get there, Bellefonte 1 is a good economic proposition”. TVA’s board approved completion of the reactor in August 2011.