In 1968, the United States Supreme Court rendered an opinion which changed the future of a small community in Tennessee known as Tazewell. Technically, the Tazewell community is made up of two separate towns named Tazewell and New Tazewell. Apparently, the town suffers from a lack of UNESCO type creativity with regards to its naming skills. 😎 (humor). The facts of the case are NOT that exciting, but I will do my best. I promise there is relevance in this story to our western Kentucky community and hopefully I will tie that together in my conclusion.
In 1933, much of the Tennessee River Valley (a region which includes most of Tennessee and areas in Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia and Missouri) suffered from too much flooding and not enough electricity. In 1933, many back yards were adorned with an “out house.” Oil lamps provided the evening light.
In an effort to fix these rural problems, Congress enacted the Tennessee Valley Authority Act of 1933. This legislation essentially formed a huge corporation known as TVA. Over time, TVA has grown to employ about 12,000 employees. TVA owns and operates multiple sources of electrical power including approximately 29 dams and 13 power plants.
In 1959, twenty-five (25) years after the initial formation of TVA, the corporation had grown so large there was fear as to the size, power and influence of the organization. Consequently, Congress amended the original TVA Act to place some restrictions upon the future growth of the TVA Corporation. Congress limited the growth of the TVA Corporation by expressly limiting where the TVA Corporation could sell its electrical power. The language which Congress chose to limit the distribution area was expressed in the legislation as follows: (This part is a little boring, but it is pretty important). 🧐
“Unless otherwise specifically authorized by Act of Congress the Corporation (TVA) shall make no contracts for the sale or delivery of power which would have the effect of making the corporation or its distributors, directly or indirectly, a source of power supply outside the area for which the Corporation or its distributors were the primary source of power on July 1, 1957: And such additional area extending not more than five miles around the periphery of such area as may be necessary to care for the growth of the corporation and its distributors within said area. . . .” 16 U.S.C. section 831n—4.
(JSYK – On July 1, 1957, TVA was the primary electric supplier of the DOE/former USEC facility located in western McCracken County and the 410 acre Ohio River Triple Rail Mega Site is within 5 miles of the DOE/former USEC site.) 😶
THE TAZEWELL, TENNESSEE CASE
In 1968, ten (10) years after Congress limited TVA’s distribution area, the leadership of Tazewell, Tennessee was upset with their high power rates. Their little town of 2,000 was paying an electric rate two and a half (2 ½) times that of the customers located in their county and not inside their city limits. The county enjoyed the lower TVA power rates, but the city was shackled with buying power from a privately owned power company via the local power co-operative. The political leaders of Tazewell, Tennessee went directly to TVA for the purpose of negotiating lower power rates for their town.
The local power co-operative and the private utility companies who were charging the high rates adamantly opposed the political leadership’s effort to substitute their high power rates with the low power rates of TVA and asserted the 1959 Amendments to the TVA Act prohibited TVA from selling power to the residents of Tazewell, Tennessee. A lawsuit resulted and in 1968, Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black (an FDR appointee) issued an opinion for the majority of the Supreme Court which defended the actions of the town’s political leaders and affirmed their rights to seek power from TVA because the area of Tazewell, Tennessee fit in the defined areas that TVA could still sell power.
MORALS OF THE STORY
- The 410 Acre Ohio River Triple Rail Megasite located in western McCracken County is within five (5) miles of an area that TVA supplied power on July 1, 1957, and TVA can lawfully supply power to the Ohio River Triple Rail Mega Site, if persuaded.
- Sometimes the choice of electrical power to a particular area needs to become a very public conversation.
So About Part 3 (in progress)
Part 3 of this series will discuss some recent good news and some recent bad news with regard to the Ohio River Triple Rail Mega Site. As a community we can learn from both “good news” and “bad news.” Recently a major potential employer looked us (Our Community) over for a significant investment. Our site made the Top 10 and validates – “We got us a good site.” However our Site did not make the Top 5 and we should have a public transparent conversation about “why not.”
Interesting read (not at all boring!). I imagine commercial interest for this project hinges on low utility rates. I’m also guessing there will be resistence (as in Tazewell) from established non-TVA utilities. Where can I learn more about the concept for the Triple Rail project?