Reputation Cleaning, After a Coal Disaster

Following a December 2008 massive coal ash spill at the Tennessee Valley Authority's (TVA's) Kingston coal-fired power station in Roane County, Tennessee, local officials want a three-year, $1.9 million public relations campaign. The Roane County Long Term Recovery Committee is asking the TVA to bankroll the campaign, which would be carried out by a Nashville PR firm, McNeely Pigott & Fox. "The campaign would feature tracking polls to gauge current perceptions about Roane County," with "two years of advertising and a 'news bureau' that would cost $726,000 each year," reports the Knoxville News Sentinel. One of the PR firm's partners said the goal would be "overall reputation building for Roane County to the tourism and economic development industries." Another Nashville firm, Cooley Public Strategies, would assist with the campaign. "Soon after the ash spill, TVA contracted with The WadeGroup Inc., of Washington, D.C.," but "TVA has not provided a copy of the WadeGroup's contract despite several requests from the News Sentinel." TVA had earlier "agreed in principle" to fund a longer PR push. The coal ash spill released 5.4 million cubic yards of sludge, 100 times larger than the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska.