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Legislative relief for ash-spill impacts?

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By Damon Lawrence

State Sen. Ken Yager and state Rep. Kent Calfee are sponsoring a bills in the General Assembly that would provide relief for delinquent taxpayers because of the TVA ash spill.

“For tax years 2009 and 2010, requires the waiver of all delinquent tax penalties and the reduction of interest to a rate of 5 percent, for delinquent taxpayers who had real property damaged by a coal ash spill,” a summary of the bill states. “Requires eligible taxpayers to apply for such relief to the assessor of property.”

The bill was filed last month.

According to the General Assembly’s website, there has been no House or Senate votes on it so far. 

“We asked for at least one amendment to it and some clarification,” Roane County Executive Ron Woody said. “The amendment basically said the property owners would have to be ones that have filed suit against TVA.”

The fiscal note on the bill said the total base amount of taxes due for 2009 and 2010 is $843,698. The total amount of penalties and interest owed for those years is $401,278.

“It is assumed that at least 20 percent of the base amount is owed by taxpayers whose real property was demolished, destroyed, or substantially damaged as a result of the coal ash spill,” the fiscal note said. “Requiring the waiver of all penalties and the reduction of interest to a rate of 5 percent would result in a one-time decrease in penalty and interest collections exceeding $59,870 ($27,195 for tax year 2009 and $32,675 for tax year 2010.”

On Dec. 22, 2008, a dike failure at TVA’s Kingston Fossil Plant released more than 5 million cubic yards of ash into the environment. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency called it one of the worst environmental disasters of its kind in history.

Hundreds of people sued TVA following the ash spill. Among the allegations is that the disaster damaged property and property values.

Woody said he’s not sure how many delinquent taxpayers would qualify if the bill passes.