Air Quality in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, located on the border between Tennessee and North Carolina, is the most visted National Park in the park system. In short, it is being loved to death. Exhaust from an unbelievable number of autos is part of the problem. A more subtle threat is the emissions from fossil fueled power plants.
On June 20, 2001 we saw an article by the Associated Press about this problem. We are seeking permission to reproduce it here, but basically it said that Senator Fred Thompson (R-TN) has told the Bush administration that "mountain air is as important as megawatts," and something has to be done.
This prompted us to write this letter to Senator Thompson:

June 20, 2001
Charles and Janice Kelley
Lawrenceville, GA 30045

The Honorable Senator Fred Thompson
511 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Thompson:

Today we read an article in the Gwinnett Daily Post regarding your concern for the air quality in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We completely agree, and would like to offer some suggestions that may not have been brought to your attention.

First, TVA has deferred completion of three nuclear generation units that were very close to being ready to put into service. If these three units were to be completed, they would add over 3300 Megawatts of baseload generation capacity to the TVA grid. One of the units is at the Watts Bar Plant, which has one unit that is in operation at the present time. The other two units are at Bellefonte, which is currently being investigated for possible conversion to fossil fuel. Bellefonte is about 150 miles southwest of the park, and if finished as a fossil plant would only add to the pollution problem. Nuclear plants produce no greenhouse gases (but we do realize there are waste issues to deal with). TVA's five operating nuclear units generated 31% of the electricity that TVA produced last year, while fossil generated about 61%. If those figures were reversed it would immensely help the air quality in the park, the State of Tennessee, and the southeastern United States.

Secondly, you are probably aware that Alcoa, Inc. provides over 2000 jobs at their smelting operation in Alcoa, Tennessee. Alcoa has a project consisting of four dams (called the Tapoco project) that is to be reviewed by the FERC for licensing renewal. The Tapoco project provides about half of the electricity that they need to operate the plant but Alcoa must purchase the rest of the electricity they need from TVA. Recreational interests are placing considerable pressure on the FERC to limit or even eliminate the power production from the project. At best, this would mean TVA would have to burn more fossil fuel to make up the loss and Alcoa would have higher production costs. More likely, Alcoa would have to shut the plant down since it would no longer be competitive. According to Alcoa's documentation, over 2100 jobs would be lost in eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina if the workers at the plant and the Tapoco project were no longer employed. We believe that Alcoa should be allowed to continue to operate the project for maximum power generation. More information about the project can be found at the following web site:

Thank you for your concern.


Charles and Janice Kelley

We are now working on letters to other Congressmen representing the Southeast, especially the ones from Georgia that we can vote for... or against!