Once, long ago, this valley was abundant with fertile soil. Farmers and their families settled here and for a time, all was perfect. However the sheer amount of farmers planting crops depleted the soil of its minerals. The river basin often flooded and demolished what remained of the farmers’ homes. Franklin Delano Roosevelt created the Tennessee Valley Authority to alleviate some of the problems ailing the farmers. In the present, the TVA still supplements the Tennessee Valley and its surrounding areas by providing electricity and maintaining the air quality.
The Tennessee Valley Authority was created to help revitalize the Tennessee Valley, which was in poor shape even before the Great Depression. Although the valley contained much fertile soil, most of it “had been farmed too hard for too long, eroding and depleting the soil (“From the New Deal to a New Century”). No electricity existed in the Tennessee Valley at this time, so without land to farm, there was no way for people there to make money. On top of the fact that there was little available farmland, the people living in the Tennessee Valley could not “control the destructive flood waters in the Tennessee River and Mississippi River basins” (Kyle A. Loring). Because of this, much of the usable farmland was destroyed along with some of the citizens’ dwellings. Without electricity, the peoples’ only efficient job prospect was farming. Such problems were beyond one state’s power to handle, and they would require intervention from the government.
In his ongoing dream to rid America of the Great Depression, Franklin Delano Roosevelt created the Tennessee Valley Authority in 1933. The TVA was created to “address a wide range of environmental, economic, and technological issues, including the delivery of low-cost electricity and the management of natural resources” (“From the New Deal to a New Century”). TVA’s solutions to one problem often tie into another and sometime even end up solving that problem. For example, to control the flooding of the Tennessee and Mississippi Rivers, the TVA constructed several dams. The dams contained turbines, which generated enough electricity to power most of the homes of people in the Tennessee Valley. To give the TVA the power to carry out such big projects, FDR asked Congress “to create a corporation clothed with the power of government, but possessed of the flexibility and initiative of a private enterprise” (“From the New Deal to a New Century”).
This authority that Congress granted the TVA allowed it the right to build structures and employ people while having the strength of the government behind it. Some electric companies disliked the idea of a government organization providing cheap electricity and even tried to sue the TVA. The fact that FDR spoke to give TVA the resources that it commands says that FDR wholly believed that the TVA could help modernize the Tennessee Valley. TVA began improving the lives of the people in the Tennessee Valley almost immediately. Electricity generated at the dams on the Tennessee River basin was sold cheaply “to nearly 100 municipalities and cooperative associations, seeing more than 325,000 consumers” (“Tennessee, A Guide to the State”). All sorts of industries began to migrate to the Tennessee Valley, creating more and more desperately needed jobs, as well as allowing people to do something other than farming to earn a living. Also, the addition of electricity improved the life of those at home, making tiring tasks such as washing clothes simple.
However, electric companies became wary of cheap federal electricity and the threat it posed to their business, so they “filed lawsuits claiming the federal government exceeded its constitutional authority by entering into the electric utility business” (Kyle A. Loring). The Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the TVA against every lawsuit except in the case of TVA vs. Hill, in which the TVA was told to stop production of the Tellico Dam. The companies were afraid that the government was going to put them out of business with their inexpensive electricity. In order to help the farmers in the Tennessee Valley, the TVA “developed fertilizers, taught farmers how to improve crop yields, and helped replant forests” (“From the New Deal to a New Century”). The fertilizers replenished the nutrients within the soil, making the land able to support crop growth again.
Newly planted trees would prevent that soil from eroding, and the improved crop yields from these measures helped maximize profit for the farmers. The TVA was so successful that it survived far past the end of the Great Depression. Today, the Tennessee Valley Authority has extended the area to which it provides electricity to include 7 states. One of TVAs current goals is “to become one of the nation’s leading providers of low-cost, cleaner energy by 2020” (“From the New Deal to a New Century”). So the TVA has plans to continue providing electricity for a while longer and is likely able to change that plan based on whatever events may occur at any time if they aspire to such a bold vision. One hopes that in achieving this goal, TVA does not forget the reason that it was first created. To date, the TVA has built over “sixty-five dams and slowed 2,500 linear miles of river,” (Kyle A. Loring).
The wealth of dams is capable of generating an enormous amount of electricity. Also, in slowing the currents of the river, the dams decrease the chance that floods will take come about. However, some did not endorse the TVA. John Battle of the National Coal Association said: “we are willing to be put out of business if it can be done in a plain, straightforward businesslike manner, but we do object to our Government putting us out of business” (Kyle A. Loring). People like John Battle thought that the government providing cheap electricity was putting electric companies out of business. Such opposition does not exist in large amounts today. While they do provide electricity, the TVA also tries to find ways to make sure that cheap electricity does not come at the cost of polluted air.
Air quality has also been one of the Tennessee Valley Authority’s most-addressed issues. Ever since 1977, TVA has invested billions “in clean air technology, achieving a 90 percent reduction in sulfur dioxide emissions and more then 86 percent for nitrogen oxide emissions” (“From the New Deal to a New Century”). This reduction in emissions goes a long way towards preventing global warming. It also reduces the chance that acid rain will fall. 4 years ago, an accident occurred which released “about 5.4 million cubic yards of coal ash, covering about 300 acres, mostly TVA-owned land, and spilling into the Emory River” (“From the New Deal to a New Century”). The TVA quickly put plans into action to restore the affected areas. They even removed the storage of ash at their fossil plants to prevent the incident from happening again.
After the TVA began trying to clean up areas affected by the coal ash spill, a court ruled that the TVA was “liable for a coal ash spill in Tennessee in which a massive mixture of toxic ash and water blanketed approximately 300 acres.” (“Judge finds TVA liable in coal ash disaster”). If TVA had followed the practices from the beginning of the organization, then the coal-ash incident might never have occurred. But, at least the TVA is trying to rectify its mistake. TVA employs many different approaches to provide clean, low-cost energy in the current world. The Tennessee Valley Authority Act is most definitely still valid in 2012, as the organization still exists and provides electricity to most of the southeastern U.S. It is still maintaining the dams that were built in the 1930s and will likely continue doing so for quite some time, as well as working to improve air quality, especially after the coal-ash disaster. Even more than everything else, though, the TVA will keep providing energy to the people of the Tennessee Valley and the surrounding areas.