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TVA Settlement Brings Millions to Western NC

December 28, 2011

WAYNESVILLE, N.C. - The New Year will bring a small silver lining to the cloud of acid rain that's been falling for years on western North Carolina.

The state has settled its seven-year lawsuit against the Tennessee Valley Authority for air pollution from the agency's coal-fired power plants. Now, the North Carolina Energy Office, the agency dispersing the funds, is meeting with western North Carolina communities to determine how to spend the $11 million settlement that has been awarded to the state.

In addition to the settlement money, says Seth Effron, communications director for the Energy Office, residents will see reduced pollution.

"The TVA is going to embark on cleaning up these facilities and making sure that there is a reduction in the kinds of coal-burning-related pollution."

Western North Carolina will see a little more than $2 million a year for the next five years as a result of the settlement, Effron says. The money could go toward job creation in energy-related fields and finding ways to become more energy efficient.

At meetings held this month, the Energy Office invited community members to offer suggestions for how they'd like to see the money spent. Effron says they heard several examples of how mountain communities already are finding innovative ways to conserve energy.

"People are saying, 'These are the things going on that are helping our communities, and let's look at ways to do even more of these kinds of things.' "

One example, he says, was from Cherokee County, where the school district used more than $800,000 in energy savings to avoid staffing cutbacks and keep 15 teachers in the classroom.

Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - NC