PACE Speaks to Tenn-Tom Waterway Conference

Later this morning, PACE Executive Director Lance Brown will address the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway Development Opportunities Conference in Point Clear, Alabama. The 34th annual event is a chance for the group’s partners to discuss opportunities and challenges to the Tenn-Tom system.


In his talk, Brown will discuss the way that federal regulations will affect the American energy sector, particularly the production, use, and transport of coal. In recent years, the Environmental Protection Agency has issued a series of new regulations that clamp down on the use of coal, resulting in widespread closure of coal-fired power plants. Rules still under development, such as the Clean Power Plan that limits carbon dioxide emissions, have the potential to have even more impact on the energy sector in general and the coal sector specifically.

From the beginning, waterways have been a crucial partner in PACE’s advocacy efforts. Among the first groups to join PACE was the Coalition of Alabama Waterways Associations, which includes a number of waterways groups in Alabama and beyond. PACE has spoken in past years to the Warrior-Tombigbee Waterway Association; the Coosa-Alabama River Improvement Association; the Tri-River Waterway Association; and the Tennessee River Valley Association. Cline Jones, Executive Director of the Tennessee River Valley Association, currently serves as Chairman of the PACE Board of Directors.

“The energy sector is a significant contributor to the health of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway and to river systems nationwide,” explains Mitch Mays, Administrator of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway Development Authority. “We realized early on that we need partners like PACE to advocate for sensible energy policy. We count on the organization to send the right messages to our elected officials and policy makers about the best path for American energy.”

Also expected to speak to conference participants are United States Representative Robert Aderholt, Kentucky Lieutenant Governor Jenean Hampton, and Brigadier General David Turner, who serves as Commander of the South Atlantic District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Among other items on the conference agenda are reports from the Mobile and Nashville Districts of the Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Coast Guard; a talk by a representative of the United States Department of Homeland Security on port security; and a discussion by a representative of the United States Maritime Administration on developments at the Panama Canal.


VA Solar Projects Raise Questions, Concerns

Any time a federal agency spending hundreds of million of dollars on projects that go awry, that is significant news to report. When that agency is the Department of Veterans Affairs, the agency tasked with being stewards of tax dollars intended for veterans, that story becomes even bigger.


According to a recent report published by Washington Free Beacon, the Department of Veterans Affiars has spent in excess of $400 million in recent years in an effort to supply medical facilities with solar power. According to the report, some of the those projects were badly delayed. Some never produced a single electron. Those findings were confirmed in a scathing review by the inspector general of the Department of Veterans Affiars, a report generated at the request of Arkansas Sens. John Boozman and French Hill, after an Arkansas project failed to meet expectations.

Read the Inspector’s Report Here

Of the fifteen solar projects awarded by the Department of Veterans Affiars between fiscal years 2010 and 2013 that were still in progress, the inspector general audited eleven of those projects. The investigation found that only two projects were fully complete. Thee eleven projects cost $95 million. Some were made more expensive by delays and poor planning.

“This occurred because of planning errors, design changes, a lengthy interconnection process, and contractor delays,” the inspector general concluded. “As a result, VA did not increase renewable energy for those solar projects in the time frame planned and incurred additional costs through needed contract modifications.”

As of this past July, five of the project were fully complete and eight were generating some amount of solar power. Some of the projects, including one in Little Rock, Arkansas, were not generating any electricity. In fact, the panels at the Little Rock facility were never turned on because they were incompatible with the local grid, a detail apparently never considered by project engineers. All of the projects were slated to be finished within twelve months. Instead, they took forty-two months on average to complete.

In total, the Department of Veterans Affairs has spent more than $400 million on its “green management program” since its inception in 2010.

“Whether it is a project as complex as hospital construction or one as simple as the proper installation of solar panels, VA continues to waste large amounts of taxpayer funds as a result of its own ineptitude,” Senator Hill said in a statement.


New Orleans Solar Project Up and Running

Flooding along the Gulf Coast has affected so many in Louisiana. There are various ways to help. Consider giving specifically to the Salvation Army’s relief efforts in Louisiana by clicking here. You can help the Red Cross in Louisiana with this site. Or, more immediately, you can text the word LAFLOODS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.


According to a report filed with The Times-Picayune, a new solar power plant in New Orleans has begun operations. The operator of the plant, Entergy, has announced that the project’s 4,000 solar panels are now operating at the New Orleans site. When fully functioning, the solar plant can generate as much as one megawatt of electricity. That figure varies, of course, with the weather and other conditions.

The project is one of the first to use battery storage as part of its operations. In May of last year, PACE applauded the announcement of the plant, noting that the utility-scale project offered advantages to customers and to the grid.

“With an eye toward responsible approaches to diversifying energy sources in the area, city leaders begin asking in September for utility-scale solar to be considered in that plan. Although there are lots of details yet to come, it looks like city leaders might see utility-scale solar on the grid earlier than expected,” PACE wrote in May 2015. “Customers, too, have cause to be optimistic; their utility has taken the responsible approach of answering the city’s call for more solar, without sticking taxpayers with the bill. Hopefully, Louisiana’s energy leaders will take note – this is the way solar ought to be done.”

The deployment of solar power is just part of the solution to powering New Orleans and the rest of Louisiana in coming years. Entergy has also proposed to build a new natural gas-fired power plant to meet future demand in the area.