environment

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.

Continue reading

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.”

Continue reading

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.”

Continue reading

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.”

Continue reading

TDEC fines TDOC for pollution by two prisons

In a case of one state agency penalizing another, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation recently fined the Tennessee Department of Correction for stream pollution near the West Tennessee State Penitentiary in Lauderdale County and the Bledsoe County Correctional Complex north of Chattanooga, according to the Commercial Appeal.

Potential fines in the TDEC order total $457,806. That can be reduced or eliminated the TDOC restores the streams – the Hatchie River in West Tennessee and a tributary of the Caney Fork River in Bledsoe County — and wetlands damaged by the pollution and outlines other environmental-restoration projects.

Continue reading

Rural TN governments duped by corporate landfill operations?

The Tennessean has a report on controversy surrounding two rural West Tennessee communities dealing with big corporations that located landfills within their boundaries, expanded them over the years to take in allegedly toxic wastes polluting the environment — and now seek to exit the scene.

The article’s focus is on Decatur County (so rural the article uses the county name as a dateline rather than the county seat, Decaturville), which has a lawsuit going against a subsidiary of Waste Industries Inc.

In February, a surprise inspection by county officials found high levels of arsenic, ammonia, cyanide and other heavy metals in leakage from the landfill they traced into a creek that flows to the Tennessee River, the source of the community’s drinking water.

A day after county officials inspected the landfill, the company filed suit seeking to walk away from its contract to manage the landfill.

County officials have counter-sued, contending Waste Industries is trying to leave it with a multi-million dollar environmental mess. They have also filed formal notice with the federal Environmental Protection Agency of their intent to sue the company for violations of federal clean water and solid waste rules.

Cited as a similar situation is the town of Camden (county seat of Benton County, located about 45 miles away).

In Camden, landfill owner Environmental Waste Solutions, which likewise accepted thousands of tons of “special wastes,” filed for bankruptcy and abandoned operations earlier this month. Local District Attorney Matthew Stowe is investigating the company for possible public safety and white collar crimes while Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, or TDEC, officials are working to contain the site.

The two landfill controversies also have something else in common: Community leaders and residents are laying part of the blame on TDEC for not holding landfill operators accountable.

…TDEC officials take strong issue with criticism they have not done their job or protected local communities.

Thousands of Asian carp dying in TN lakes; TWRA investigating

News release from Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency

NASHVILLE — Boaters may have noticed recently that there is a large number of fish dying along the shoreline throughout Kentucky and Barkley lakes, an occurrence that the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is aware of and investigating.

The dead fish are silver carp, an invasive species that can negatively impact native fish and recreational boating. Because of these threats, the TWRA has been working to stem their expansion into new waters.

“While we are trying to learn how to slow or stop their expansion, the recent die-off of thousands of fish for whatever reason has occurred naturally,” noted Frank Fiss, Chief of TWRA’s Fish Division.

Continue reading

TDEC adds 1,058 acres to South Cumberland State Park

News release from Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation

MARION COUNTY, Tenn. – The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC), in partnership with The Conservation Fund, The Land Trust for Tennessee and the Open Space Institute (OSI), today announced the addition of 1,058 acres to South Cumberland State Park in Marion County. The acquisition connects more than 7,000 acres of protected public land, conserves forestland and cove habitat from future development, and protects scenic views on the Fiery Gizzard trail.  Continue reading

TDEC fines Memphis $512K for sewage spill

A year after ruptures in the Memphis wastewater system began spewing millions of gallons of raw sewage into local streams and lakes, Tennessee environmental regulators issued an order Thursday assessing at least $512,857 in penalties and damages against the city, reports the Commercial Appeal.

The order signed by Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner Robert Martineau cited the ruptures of a 96-inch interceptor, a 60-inch pipe and a 42-inch line that occurred between March 31 and April 18, 2016, after heavy rain washed out the stream banks in which the pipes were buried.

State officials estimate that more than 350 million gallons of untreated wastewater poured into Cypress Creek and McKellar Lake in Southwest Memphis, killing at least 72,000 fish. The rupture of the 42-inch pipe along the Loosahatchie River, along the city’s northern edge, spewed at least 7.5 million gallons of raw sewage before crews finished a bypass line that ended the leak.

The order calls for Memphis to pay $359,855.98 into a state natural resource damages fund and ante up a civil penalty of at least $49,920 and more if it fails to comply with environmental-restoration work prescribed by the department. In addition, city must some $61,929 in damages to TDEC and $41,153 to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, which investigated the fish kill.

…The order isn’t final until 30 days after its issuance, and the city can file an appeal that would be heard by an administrative law judge.

Memphis aquifer gets bipartisan protection push from Shelby County legislators

Republican state Sen. Brian Kelsey and Democratic Sen. Lee Harris are at opposite ends of the political spectrum but say they’ll jointly work for legislation to protect the Memphis aquifer, source of the city’s drinking water, according to the Commercial Appeal.

Kelsey says he will introduce legislation, sponsored in the House by Rep. Ron Lollar, R-Bartlett, that would create a regional board or entity overseeing the Memphis Sand aquifer. Harris will be a co-sponsor.

Kelsey described the bill as an initial step toward finding ways to protect the Memphis Sand, acknowledging that the concept of a regional board may need further examination.

“I’m open to plenty of other ideas, and I hope this would begin the discussion,” he said.

Harris said the bill is needed to ensure area residents have a “greater voice” in protecting the aquifer.

The legislative move follows months of controversy last year over plans by the Tennessee Valley Authority to pump 3.5 million gallons of aquifer water daily to cool a power-generating plant it is building in Southwest Memphis. Environmentalists and some scientists opposed the pumping, saying it could set a troubling precedent and suck contaminants into the Memphis Sand, which supplies public utilities and private industry in Shelby County with more than 180 million gallons of high-quality water daily.

In November, however, the Shelby County Groundwater Quality Control Board denied an appeal filed by environmentalists seeking to overturn the county’s issuance of permits authorizing wells for the TVA project. Board members said the project complied with the county’s well regulations.

In addition to the planned state legislation, some county officials have called for stricter local ordinances to regulate wells drilled into the Memphis Sand.

Kelsey said the TVA project underscored the need for better oversight of the aquifer.

“I do think it’s important to the community to protect our clean water. It’s one of our most important resources,” he said.