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MEMPHIS, Tenn.– There are concerns over the Tennessee Valley Authority’s plans to take coal ash from one Memphis community and move it to another as the Memphis chapter of the NAACP and some city leaders say it looks like environmental racism.

The push back is in relation to a Tennessee Valley Authority plan to remove coal ash from ponds in Southwest Memphis and transport the ash along Shelby Drive to a landfill in Southeast Memphis.

The Memphis Chapter of the NAACP is now sounding off. Van Turner is NAACP president and a Shelby County Commissioner.

“We would prefer on behalf of the NAACP that the coal ash is removed from Shelby County period.” Commissioner Turner said.
The TVA plan recently got the approval of the Tennessee Department of Environment and was seen as one of the last regulatory roadblocks.

“Even if you put the coal ash in southeast Shelby County, there’s still the potential it could contaminate the soils,” Commissioner Turner said. “Obviously, when you look around town the factories and the environmental waste and all the things which are unhealthy to the environment are based out of black communities. That’s an issue and a concern.”

Some Memphis City Council Members had questioned TVA’s coal ash proposal of moving it from one black community to another.

Councilman Dr. Jeff Warren calls it environmental racism.

“The question is do we really want to move it from one African American community to another African American community and continue sort of a long term, i guess, process of environmentally racism that we’ve seen in a lot of our major industries,” he said.

A few months ago, WREG spoke with indicted Tennessee Senator Brian Kelsey of Germantown about the TVA coal ash issue.

“I’m filing this resolution to have the TVA to clean up their coal ash that’s right here down in Presidents Island and potentially endangering our clean and safe drinking water,” Senator Kelsey said. “Unfortunately, the TVA has said they’re going to clean this up over a huge time span. Frankly, they have a terrible record.”

For now, the NAACP and others wait to see if the TVA can come up a better plan to protect the environment and those in nearby communities.

“In my mind, I think how the TVA responds to this will make a difference in other decisions I make in the future,” Councilman Warren said.

Commissioner Turner says the NAACP is open to discussion for a better solution.

“The NAACP is here to work out a better solution, if one is possible, and the TVA is open to it,”

TVA Vice President of Communications Buddy Eller said they are working with their partners to address the issue.

“We continue to collaborate with our partners — Memphis, Light Gas and Water; the City of Memphis; the Memphis and Shelby County Port Authority; and Shelby County — on addressing this shared responsibility,” he said.

TVA President and CEO Jeff Lyash also responded saying, “We’re all responsible and it’s important that we do the responsible thing. And you know, prime among what the priorities are for me is protecting the aquifer and disposing of this coal ash in the right way. That’s what we’re doing.”