Pollution claims questioned

An attorney for the Tennessee Valley Authority challenged a pollution expert's assertion that the utility could more quickly reduce its power plant emissions, which N.C. officials say illegally cross into the state.

The Tennessean newspaper of Nashville reported Wednesday that TVA lawyer Frank Lancaster questioned James Staudt on Wednesday during a hearing in U.S. District Court.

North Carolina is suing TVA and has asked U.S. District Court Judge Lacy Thornburg to order the TVA to cap its emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide.

Thornburg is presiding without a jury.

Lancaster challenged Staudt's earlier testimony that TVA could move far more quickly to install equipment to clean emissions.

Lancaster asked Staudt if it was reasonable to expect TVA to install scrubbers on smoke stacks within five years when state law provides 10 years for N.C. utilities.

Staudt said TVA could meet the shorter deadline by “accelerating the plans you already have.”

Staudt testified a day earlier that data from TVA and the Environmental Protection Agency show the utility could emit no more than 140,000 tons of sulfur dioxide and 60,000 tons of nitrogen oxides annually if it reduced its emissions to what's allowed by state law. TVA said it emits 374,000 tons of sulfur dioxide a year – less than the 875,000 tons it put out a decade ago.

Staudt also said 50 of the TVA generating units are at least 50 years old, and that its remaining 50 units are at least 35 years old.

TVA has upgraded its plants since the lawsuit was filed. TVA has coal-burning plants in Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia.