environment

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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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.

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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.

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