environment

‘Complete rebuild’ of Fall Creek Falls State Park lodging approved

The Haslam administration has received approval from the State Building Commission for its plans to rebuild the guest lodging at Fall Creek Falls State Park, reports the Time Free Press.

The plan is to tear down two existing facilities and build a single inn with about 85 rooms along with a new restaurant and conference center at the 26,000-acre park, long considered the “crown jewel” of Tennessee’s state parks system, on the Upper Cumberland Plateau. The work is expected to take 1 1/2 to two years.

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Cumberland County, TDEC have a dam dispute

The Cumberland County Commission is refusing to pay a bill from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation for inspection of a small dam, reports The Crossville Chronicle. The initial 2016 fee for inspection of Breckenridge Dam was $500, but that’s grown to $3,536.29 with penalties and interest.

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TDEC hides data on low-level radioactive waste from public

Excerpt from a Tennessean report:

Ten years ago, when Murfreesboro residents learned the state had approved the dumping of low-level radioactive waste at a local landfill, a fierce community backlash swiftly put an end to the practice.

Today, Tennessee citizens have no way to find out how much low-level radioactive waste is going into other landfills.

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, or TDEC, has wiped that data from its website and said it is confidential.

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Committee approves designation of 20,000 acres of Cherokee National Forest as wilderness

Press release from Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) today made the following statements after the Senate’s Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee advanced legislation they introduced earlier this year to preserve Tennessee’s heritage for future generations.

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Affidavits say records on Kingston coal ash cleanup were intentionally destroyed

Three supervisors – two construction foremen and a TVA-paid overseer – say in affidavits filed in U.S. District Court they saw separate instances in which Tom Bock, the man tasked with protecting workers at the nation’s largest coal ash spill,  intentionally destroyed or skewed air monitoring results and knowingly endangered workers, reports the News Sentinel.

Bock served as safety manager for Jacobs Engineering, an international government contractor.

The firm was tapped by TVA and approved by the EPA and Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation to manage the clean-up of the massive coal ash spill at the TVA Kingston Fossil Fuel Power Plant in the Swan Pond community of Roane County in December 2008.

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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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