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TEC: ‘Sustainability’ Best Bet to Create Jobs, Improve Economy

Press release from the Tennessee Environmental Council; Feb. 22, 2012:

Sustainable TN Coalition Members Host Day on the Hill Event at Legislative Plaza in Nashville including Press Conference at 10:00 in LP-30

Nashville TN—On February 22, the Sustainable Tennessee coalition made up of conservation groups, environmental policy experts, students, educators, elected officials and representatives of private businesses and industry will host Conservation Education Day from 9:00-3:00 pm at the Legislative Plaza in Nashville. The event includes a Press Conference at 10:30 in Room LP-30 and meetings with key legislators throughout the day. Conservation Education Day will focus on green jobs and a strong, sustainable economy for Tennessee.

“Natural resources form the backbone of our economy, quality of life and our Tennessee heritage,” says John McFadden, Executive Director for Tennessee Environmental Council. “Economic recovery cannot be sustained without proper stewardship of our natural resources. In most cases, looking out for our environment and health provides opportunities for innovation, leadership and new jobs for Tennesseans.”

“Sustainability is the single best engine we have to create jobs and improve the economy,” said John McFadden, Executive Director Tennessee Environmental Council. “Solar is a key component of the new energy economy.” Solar and solar-related industries already employ more that 6,400 Tennesseans. Sharp Manufacturing in Memphis, Hemlock Semiconductor in Clarksville, AGC Glass in Kingsport, and Shoals Technologies in Gallatin will employ approximately 1,750 employees collectively and support additional jobs for suppliers and other vendors locally. The numerous solar installers in the state, already the leading generator of new green jobs, are also growing in number at a rapid rate from one or two installers ten years.

Passing the Tennessee Scenic Vistas Act to stop Mountaintop removal coal mining in Tennessee is the Sustainable TN coalition’s top priority issue for 2012. Coal mining jobs have fallen 85% since 1985 in Tennessee, due to an increase in surface mining and a decrease in overall production. In Tennessee, Page 2 mountains are our most important economic asset. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited National Park in the entire country, with more than 9 million visitors annually (twice as many as the Grand Canyon.) The tourism industry employs more than 175,000 in our state and brings more than $13 billion in benefits every single year. We simply can’t afford to destroy our mountains.

Other industries, like hunting, fishing, and all other outdoor recreational activities generate over $5.3 billion in retail sales, create 85,000 jobs and produce $347 million in state tax revenues for Tennessee annually. Green jobs are the future of the new energy economy and the 2012 Sustainable TN Agenda further encourages their growth through a proposed sustainable development strategy that will position Tennessee to stimulate the economy and green jobs sector. This strategy ensures that labor-intensive, stable, and well-paying Green Collar jobs in industries like hunting, fishing, and other outdoor activities are all created locally.

Economically productive, local parks and greenways increase property values and property tax revenue while also increasing local business revenue associated with park and natural area use (like bicycling, camping, and trails). Tennessee wetlands, forests, lakes, and rivers provide economic value associated with clean air, clean water, ground water storage, and flood control. Additionally, parks and their recreational activities reduce youth crime, which represents a significant savings when costs are compared to those of incarceration. Because of the economic impact, the Sustainable Tennessee coalition supports keeping the Real Estate Transfer Fund in the state budget.

McFadden first presented the 2012 Sustainable TN Agenda at the a press conference on January 25 along with Don Safer – Board Chairman, Tennessee Environmental Council; Mary Helen Clarke – Tennessee Conservation Voters; J.W. Randolph – Appalachian Voices; and Paul McCown – McCown Consulting. The Agenda identifies critical policy and practice issues for air, land, energy, water, including a priority action to support growth of green jobs.

The 2011 Sustainable Tennessee Agenda can be found online at www.SustainableTN.org. Sustainable Tennessee is a project of Tennessee Environmental Council who educates and advocates for the conservation and improvement of Tennessee’s environment, communities and public health. www.tectn.org

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