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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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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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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Developer suspends $100M Cumberland County wind turbine project (‘Welcome news,’ says Alexander)

Apex Clean Energy Inc. has suspended plans for developing a controversial wind turbine project in eastern Cumberland County, reports the Crossville Chronicle. The move comes three months after the legislature declared a moratorium until July, 2018 on such projects while a study committee meets to consider drafting state regulations for electricity-generating wind turbines. has been suspended by the developer.

“Based on current market conditions and the project’s fundamental qualities, we have decided not to make this significant investment at this time,” Harry Snyder, development manager, wrote. “Our work on the Crab Orchard Wind project will be therefore suspended until market conditions change to make the project more competitive.”

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Lamar Alexander really likes one bill passed in 2017 legislative session

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, though generally declaring a reluctance to involve himself in matters of state policy despite his status as a former governor, has made an exception in the case of a bill imposing a temporary block on construction of wind-powered electricity generation that was signed into law last week. The measure meshes with his status at the national level as a big opponent generally of wind power and a big proponent of nuclear energy for electricity generation.

The wind energy moratorium bill (HB1021 by Rep. Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, and Sen. Paul Bailey, R-Sparta) is basically a compromise between Apex Energy, which plans a big wind turbine development near Crossville, and intense opposition to the development from Cumberland County constituents of Sexton and Bailey who would be impacted.

The deal allows the company to continue its preliminary work, though not beginning actual construction while the moratorium runs until next July 1 – basically in accord with company plans. In the meantime, a legislator committee will look at whether the state government should regulate wind turbines and give its recommendations to the General Assembly in January.

News release from Sen. Lamar Alexander (belatedly posted)

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 12, 2017 – U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today said Governor Haslam’s signature on legislation approved by the Tennessee General Assembly will give Tennesseans “an opportunity to decide whether we want our landscape littered with unreliable wind turbines over two times as tall as the skyboxes at the University of Tennessee football stadium.”

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Zero bids for Fall Creek Falls Park privatization

In a stinging setback to its privatization effort for Fall Creek Falls State Park, the Haslam administration’s proposed contract to outsource hospitality services has failed to draw a single bid from would-be operators, reports the Times Free Press.

Kim Schofinski, a spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, confirmed Wednesday there were no bidders for the request for proposals.

She said the department, meanwhile, is thankful the governor and state lawmakers “allocated funding to enhance the user experience at Fall Creek Falls, and we will evaluate how to best manage those resources as we move forward.”

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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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