Morristown native wins coal ash battle against TVA


Beth Alexander went up against TVA, and won.

Alexander, a Nashville attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center, recently won a large case against the government agency, saying they were polluting the Cumberland River with coal ash residue.

And she’s originally from Morristown.

“The coal ash thing was pretty all encompassing,” Alexander said this week.

Environmentalists said the governmental agency violated the Clean Water Act with how it stored the coal ash and a federal judge sided with them.

Alexander won the case against TVA two weeks ago on how it stored coal ash at its Gallatin, Tenn., power plant.

But it still is not over, Alexander said. She said TVA could appeal the ruling as early as this week.

The coal ash lawsuit came after the Tennessee Scenic Rivers Association and Tennessee Clean Waters Network sued the public utility, saying that its Gallatin coal ash storage facilities, which are decades old, are inadequate. They mainintained the residues of the ash have been seeping into the Cumberland River for years.

A federal judge agreed and told the utility it would have to move all the ash to a lined waste site.

TVA maintains it would cost about $2 billion to do so.

Alexander has worked as a senior attorney for Southern Environmental Law Center since January 2015 and before that worked as a partner for Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann & Bernstein LLP, out of Nashville. During her time at that company, she worked in lawsuits against BP in the Deepwater Horizon spill and the TVA Kingston coal ash spill, one of the worst environmental disasters in Tennessee history.

Alexander received her law degree in 1998 from Vanderbilt University and her bachelor’s degree from Hollin’s College in Roanoke, Va. in 1993.

She moved away from Hamblen County in 1989, but she still comes to the area.

Her parents still live here.

“I was just there this weekend,” she said.

She said right now she is just busy raising her 11- and 10-year-old girls.

Professionally, she said the law center would like to try to get more over into this area.

“We’d like to do more work in East Tennessee, quite frankly,” she said.