environment

TN endangered species list hasn’t been updated in 16 years

A state comptroller’s audit says that the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency has not updated Tennessee’s endangered species list in 16 years – an apparent violation of both state law and an agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

A state law calls for the endandered species list to be updated every two years. The agreement with the federal agency calls for TWRA to submit additions and deletions to the list once a year.

In response to the audit finding, TWRA officials said the head of the agency’s biodiversity division was unaware of the reporting requirements until 2013 and is in the process of doing a full update.

Note: The audit is HERE; the current Tennessee endangered species list is HERE.

Report: Without change, Smokies wildfire ‘will be repeated’

A U.S. National Park Service committee’s review of the November, 2016, Great Smoky Mountains National Park wildfire found no outright wrongdoing by park officials, but uncovered a culture of lax oversight, inexperienced management and tunnel vision that made its spread possible, reports the News Sentinel.

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TN meets EPA particle pollution standards statewide

News release from Department of Environment and Conservation

NASHVILLE – The entire state of Tennessee is now in compliance with federal air quality health standards for particle pollution, also known as particulate matter or PM2.5.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) yesterday in the Federal Register finalized its official redesignation of all of Anderson, Knox, Blount and Loudon counties and the remaining part of Roane County as “attainment,” which means the areas now meet federal particle pollution standards. These areas were the last remaining areas in Tennessee to achieve the designation.

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Haslam administration abandons state park privatization plans

Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner Bob Martineau told a state legislative committee today that Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration is abandoning plans to privatize operations at Tennessee state parks, reports the Times Free Press. He said TDEC’s focus will now be on using more than $100 million previously approved for state parks to begin addressing decades of ignored capital needs.

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With $700K spent, new Reelfoot Lake State Park building may be torn down rather than finished

State officials are tentatively planning to demolish an interpretative visitors center that has been under construction at Reelfoot Lake State Park rather than complete it, reports the Commercial Appeal. That comes 18 months after a ceremonial groundbreaking, expenditure of up to $700,000 in taxpayer dollars and an audit indicating possible bidding improprieties in awarding a construction contract.

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Judge orders TVA to move mountain of coal ash waste at Gallatin Steam Plant

U.S. District Court Judge Waverly Crenshaw of Nashville has ordered the Tennessee Valley Authority to excavate and relocate a mountain of coal ash accumulated over decades at its Gallatin Steam plant, reports WPLN.

Crenshaw said in his order, issued Friday and resolving a lawsuit brought by environmental groups, that TVA’s construction of an unlined ash waste pond in porous terrain, as the case in Gallatin, risks leakage into the neighboring Cumberland River. Because the cost of moving the waste will be so high, he did not order TVA to pay any penalties.

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TDEC partners with brewery producing ‘State Park Blonde Ale’

News release from Craftbeer.com, a publication of the Brewers Association

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (July 19, 2017) – Tennessee Brew Works has partnered with the Tennessee State Parks by creating a new Tennessee State Parks Beer, “State Park Blonde Ale,” with a portion of sales benefiting the mission of Tennessee State Parks.

The Tennessee State Parks and Tennessee Brew Works teams met almost two years ago. Sharing ideas over a common bond of craft beer with aims to better our land and community, they quickly became friends. Since then, they have been actively discussing projects and possible ways for the two organizations to optimize their synergies.

“Together we have found a way to make delicious Tennessee Brew Works craft beer and support Tennessee State Parks with our State Park Blonde Ale. We proudly support the mission of Tennessee State Parks as they preserve and protect our natural resources,” said Christian Spears, founder and owner, Tennessee Brew Works.

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Reversing chancellor’s ruling, Court of Appeals clears way for challenge to TDEC pipeline permit

In a major victory for landowners along the Nolichucky River, a Tennessee Appeals Court ruled that they have standing to challenge a highly controversial permit issued by the Tennessee Department of Transportation for a pipeline to a US Nitrogen plant in Greene County, reports the News Sentinel.

In an 18-page decision, Appeals Court Judge Brandon O. Gibson reversed virtually every finding by Chancery Court Judge Claudia Bonnyman.

“We conclude that these six petitioners have alleged distinct and palpable injuries fairly traceable to the allegedly unlawful permit and are likely to be redressed by the requested relief,” Gibson wrote in a decision that was joined by two of his appeals court colleagues.

The two 10-mile pipelines are already in place and are being utilized by US Nitrogen in the production of ammonium nitrate. The pipelines run along two state highways from the company plant in Midway Greene County to the Nolichucky River.

As the ruling notes the company intends to pump as much as 2 million gallons of water per day from the Nolichucky River.

Gibson found that landowners Don Bible and Jack Renner have standing to challenge the permit based on their contention that the pipelines actually intrude on their property and are not in the right of way granted by TDOT… As for the four landowners along the river, the court dismissed Bonnyman’s conclusion that since other landowners could make the same claim, their claim was invalid.

Noting that the landowners claimed that pumping 2 million gallons from the river a day would severely affect their use of the river, Gibson wrote, “These are distinct and palpable injuries not shared with the public at large.”

Note: The full opinion is HERE.

TVA finds arsenic, other toxins in ground water beneath Memphis plant

The Tennessee Valley Authority has reported finding high levels of arsenic and other toxins in ground water underlying a Southwest Memphis power plant where thousands of tons of coal ash are impounded, reports The Commercial Appeal.

The arsenic, measured at levels more than 300 times the federal drinking-water standard, was discovered in monitoring wells at the Allen Fossil Plant. Excessive amounts of lead also showed up in the 50-foot-deep wells that were installed to check for any pollution emanating from ponds containing ash and boiler slag generated by burning coal.

The tainted ground water lies within a half-mile of where TVA recently drilled five 650-foot-deep wells into the Memphis Sand aquifer, the source of local drinking water, from which it plans to pump 3.5 million gallons daily to cool a natural gas-fueled power plant under construction. Local scientists and environmentalists had opposed the wells, saying the pumping could pull contaminants into the Memphis Sand.

However, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation officials say they believe the pollution is restricted to the upper-most aquifer and does not pose a threat to the much deeper Memphis Sand.

“We are confident the contaminants found in TVA wells at the Allen Fossil Plant are not impacting drinking water. Out of an abundance of caution, we have requested Memphis Light, Gas and Water (Division) to sample its treated water in order to give that assurance to customers,” TDEC spokesman Eric Ward said in an email.

 

 

 

 

Jim Fyke, former state conservation commissioner and Nashville parks director, dies aged 78

James H. “Jim” Fyke, who served as Nashville’s city parks director for 25 years and as commissioner of the state Department of Environment and Conservation under former Gov. Phil Bredesen, has died at age 78 following a long battle with cancer, reports The Tennessean.

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ABOUT THIS BLOG

Former Knoxville News Sentinel capitol bureau chief Tom Humphrey writes about Tennessee politics, government, and legislative news.

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