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TDEC Launches ‘Easily Navigable Portal’ to Access State-Managed Land Maps

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation; January 14, 2013: 

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation announced today the launch of its new Geographic Information System (GIS)-based site that provides up-to-date interactive maps and information about recreational opportunities at Tennessee State Parks and natural areas. Plans also are under way to incorporate GIS information about state historical and archaeological sites in the future.

The new application offers an easily navigable portal to access a map of TDEC-managed lands. This GIS-based internet mapping system has been integrated into TDEC’s existing infrastructure to provide a wealth of geospatial information, including core GIS tools, templates and applications. These new interactive maps and layers also are designed to help TDEC improve operations and communicate more effectively with the public, while saving both time and money.

“Created internally by TDEC employees, today’s launch is the result of a collaborative effort across many levels of the department,” said TDEC Commissioner Bob Martineau. “Over the past several years, staff has transitioned existing data into an Oracle database – moving away from traditional data storage. Last year, we moved forward with plans to serve a public-facing GIS application within the department, giving staff the ability to manage the data and the actual site both effectively and cost-efficiently with no additional costs to the department.”

Links to the new interactive portal can be found on Tennessee State Parks’ website at www.tnstateparks.com/findapark or via the Tennessee Natural Areas’ website at www.tn.gov/environment/na/. Features of the new GIS application include:

  • Customized Icons – Information about state parks and natural areas are just a click away, using individual icons. Basic information about a particular area includes an address, with more in-depth details such as hiking trails, accommodations and local amenities offered. The customized icons also provide a link to an individual park or natural area website.
  • Search Function – The search function allows the public to easily access recreational areas across the state within 20 miles of a particular address and to receive directions to those particular sites. The search function also allows the user to search by the name of a particular park, natural area or site or by a specific activity – from fishing to kayaking to camping.

“With a successful collection of data, staff collaboration and very little infrastructure investment, we have been able to quickly move forward,” added Martineau. “In addition to adding state historical or archaeological sites, we are beginning to look at an expansion of the application for TDEC’s Bureau of Environment, to include permitted site data for various facilities across the state and other environmental interests, which will offer the public at large access to important information quicker and easier.”

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Press Releases

Haslam Announces $1.7M in Recycling Grants

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation; December 13, 2012:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner Bob Martineau today awarded approximately $1.7 million in Recycling Equipment and Hub / Spoke Grants for FY 2013 projects to help reduce landfill waste in Tennessee.

“We are pleased to fund these 18 projects through the state’s Solid Waste Management Fund because they will promote and increase recycling across the state of Tennessee and engage partnerships among counties and municipalities,” Haslam said.

Recycling Equipment Grants

The Recycling Equipment Grant program helps encourage recycling and reduces the amount of solid waste going into Tennessee landfills. It was authorized by the Solid Waste Management Act of 1991 and is supported by the Tennessee Solid Waste Management Fund, which is administered by Environment and Conservation. The fund receives its revenues from a state surcharge on each ton of solid waste disposed in landfills and from a fee on new tires sold in the state.

Recycling equipment grants may be used to purchase equipment for new recycling programs, improve and expand the operation of an existing site or prepare recyclable materials for transport and marketing. Grants may be awarded to counties, cities, non-profit recycling organizations and solid waste authorities to help reach or exceed the goals set forth in the Solid Waste Management Act of 1991. Each recipient is required to match the state grant on a sliding scale basis. Local matching funds toward these 12 projects total more than $226,000.

Recycling Equipment Grants totaling $262,999 were awarded today to:

 

APPLICANT COUNTY GRANT AMT APPLICANT MATCH PROJECT/ EQUIP.
Carroll County Carroll $23,164 $5,791 Truck
Carter County Carter $25,000 $30,016 Conveyor system, separator and containers
Claiborne County Claiborne $24,000 $35,000 Compactors
Cumberland County Cumberland $20,400 $13,600 Fork Lift
Decatur County Decatur $25,000 $7,400 Conveyor / conveyor table
Fentress County Fentress $25,000 $20,000 Roll back truck
Jefferson County Jefferson $25,000 $52,372 Baler, conveyor
Lawrence County Lawrence $23,336 $5,834 Forklift
Lincoln County Lincoln $12,749 $5,464 Hoppers, lids, trailers, mini-cycler and glass crusher
McNairy County McNairy $22,750 $9,750 Baler, truck and containers
Sevier Solid Waste, Inc Sevier $25,000 $29,750 Baler
Washington County Washington $11,600 $11,600 Containers

 

Recycling Hub and Spoke Grants

A total of $1,436,178 was awarded in Recycling Hub and Spoke Grants to six regional recycling projects to facilitate and increase recycling efforts between counties and municipalities by promoting greater regional cooperation.  These grants also are authorized by the Solid Waste Management Act of 1991 and supported by the Tennessee Solid Waste Management Fund.

The Recycling Hub and Spoke Grant program assists in the development and expansion of a regional facility to collect, transport and process recyclable material for multi-county areas or municipalities.  Counties or multi-county areas in partnership with cities, solid waste authorities and nonprofit recycling organizations chartered in the state of Tennessee are eligible for the Recycling Hub and Spoke Grants. Recycling Hub and Spoke Grants announced today include:

 

APPLICANT COUNTY / PARTNERSHIP GRANT AMT PROJECT / EQUIP.
Marshall County In partnership with Maury, Giles, Lincoln and Bedford counties; and the cities of Lewisburg, Columbia, Petersburg, Chapel Hill, and Cornersville $300,000 Retrofits to recycling building, commercial kitchen equipment, scales, conveyor, upgrades to sort lines, and skid loader
City of Columbia Partnership with Maury and Marshall counties $225,000 Recycling truck
Goodwill Industries of Knoxville Partnership with Cocke and Grainger counties; and the cities of Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, and Gatlinburg $299,178 Baler, conveyors, skid loader, forklifts and front- load recycle bins
West TN Recycling Hub and Spoke – Chester County Administered by Chester County in partnership with Hardin and McNairy counties $99,000 (Chester)$88,600 (Hardin)$112,400 (McNairy) Scales, conveyor, glass crusher, containers, promotional / advertising and building demolition
Cumberland County Partnership between Cumberland County and the cities of Crossville, Crab Orchard and Pleasant Hill $300,000 Recycling facility development
City of Petersburg Partnership with Marshall County, serving the city of Petersburg, Marshall and Lincoln counties $12,000 Recycling trailer

 

More information about Recycling Equipment or Recycling Hub and Spoke grants may be found on the Department of Environment and Conservation’s website at www.tn.gov/environment/swm/grants.

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Press Releases

State Reminds Tennesseans of Groundwater Safety Importance

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation; Sept. 7, 2012: 

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation is joining the Tennessee Department of Health to encourage Tennesseans and private water well owners in the state to observe Protect Your Groundwater Day on September 11.

Sponsored by the National Ground Water Association, in partnership with a variety of federal, state and local partners, Protect Your Groundwater Day highlights the importance of the state’s underground water resources. It also is designed to raise awareness among private water well owners on the importance of yearly testing and proper well maintenance to prevent illness.

“Protect Your Groundwater Day is a great time to reinforce the importance of good ground water quality,” said Environment and Conservation Commissioner Bob Martineau. “In addition to private water wells, a large percentage of public systems in the state rely on ground water for its drinking water supply. There are a number of steps Tennesseans can take to preserve and protect ground water for human and environmental needs.”

Tennessee contains beautiful streams, rivers and lakes, and protecting the state’s unseen groundwater system also is important. Regional aquifers are large bodies of hidden underground water and supply a substantial amount of the state’s public and private drinking water.

Tennesseans can do their part in promoting good stewardship of the state’s ground water by properly maintaining their home septic systems and any abandoned wells they own and through proper storage and the appropriate disposal of pharmaceuticals and personal care products or hazardous household waste, including common products such as gasoline, oil, paints, fertilizers, pesticides and cleaning products. For a schedule of TDEC’s upcoming Household Hazardous Waste Collection events slated for this fall, please visit www.tn.gov/environment/swm/pdf/hazcoll.pdf.

The safety requirements for public drinking water systems do not apply to private wells, so it is the responsibility of private water well owners to ensure their water is safe from contaminants. For more information on the readily available resources for well owners and drillers, please visit TDEC’s Division of Water Resources at www.tn.gov/environment/dws. The website contains several program links, including the list of Licensed Tennessee Well Drillers and Installers and the Tennessee Healthy Well Manual.

According to the Department of Health, at least three outbreaks of waterborne illness related to the consumption of water from a private well or spring have been investigated in Tennessee since 2007. These outbreaks resulted in 16 persons becoming ill. Recommendations to well owners include testing private water supplies annually for bacteria and chemical contaminants. In some areas where karst or limestone geology predominates, filtration through the earth is not effective; continuous purifying treatment such as home filtration, distillers or chlorinating systems are often necessary for drinking water to be reliably free of contamination.

Information about Protect Your Groundwater Day can be found on the National Ground Water Association’s website at www.ngwa.org.

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Press Releases

TDEC Announces $25.5 Million in Loans for Water, Wastewater Systems

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation; June 6, 2012:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner Bob Martineau today announced that two communities, one water authority, and one water/wastewater authority have been approved to receive a total of $25.5 million in low-interest loans for water and wastewater infrastructure improvements.

“These projects will help address critical drinking water and wastewater infrastructure improvements, as well as foster healthy communities as they continue to grow,” Haslam said.

The State Revolving Fund (SRF) Loan Program provides low-interest loans that help communities, utility districts, and water and wastewater authorities finance projects that protect Tennessee’s ground and surface waters and public health. Loans are used to finance the planning, design and construction of water and wastewater facilities.

The Department of Environment and Conservation administers the SRF Loan Program for the state of Tennessee in conjunction with the Tennessee Local Development Authority. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency provides grants to fund the program, and the state provides a 20 percent match. Loan repayments are returned to the program and are used to fund future SRF loans.

Through the SRF Program, communities, utility districts, and water and wastewater authorities can obtain loans with lower interest rates than most can obtain through private financing. Interest rates for loans can vary from zero percent to market rate based on each community’s economic index. Loans utilizing the 2010 EPA grant funds include 20 percent principal forgiveness for water and wastewater projects, while 2011 EPA grant funds include 30 percent principal forgiveness for water and 10 percent principal forgiveness for wastewater projects.

“The State Revolving Fund loan program is an important tool that not only helps implement much needed infrastructure improvements for the ongoing protection of the environment and public health, it also keeps local communities moving forward as they prepare for future needs,” Martineau said.

The funding order of projects is determined by the SRF Loan Program’s Priority Ranking Lists that rank potential projects according to the severity of their pollution and/or compliance problems or for the protection of public health.

 

Wastewater Loans were announced today for the following recipients:

Hamilton County Water and Wastewater Treatment Authority – The Hamilton County Water and Wastewater Treatment Authority will receive $6 million for a project that includes infiltration and inflow correction. The project will be funded with a 20-year, $4.8 million loan with an interest rate of 1.54 percent and $1.2 million in principal forgiveness (20 percent) that will not have to be repaid.

Water Authority of Dickson County (Dickson and Williamson Counties) – The Water Authority of Dickson County will receive $10 million for a project that includes collection system expansion and rehabilitation and replacement of gravity sewer trunk lines. The project will be funded with a 20-year, $8 million loan with an interest rate of 1.11 percent and $2 million in principal forgiveness (20 percent) that will not have to be repaid.

City of White House (Sumner and Robertson Counties) – The city of White House will receive $4 million for a project that includes infiltration and inflow correction. The project will be funded with a 20-year, $3.6 million loan with an interest rate of one percent and $400,000 in principal forgiveness (10 percent) that will not have to be repaid.

 

A Drinking Water Loan was announced today for the following recipient:

City of Lebanon (Wilson County) – The city of Lebanon will receive $3.67 million for Water Treatment Plant improvements, including new clearwells. The project will be funded with a 20-year, $2.94 million loan with an interest rate of 1.76 percent and $0.73 million in principal forgiveness (20 percent) that will not have to be repaid.

 

A traditional Wastewater Loan was announced today for the following recipient:

City of White House (Sumner and Robertson Counties) – The city of White House will also receive a $500,000, 20-year loan with an interest rate of one percent for a project that includes infiltration and inflow correction.

 

A traditional Drinking Water Loan was announced today for the following recipient:

City of Lebanon (Wilson County) – The city of Lebanon will also receive a $1.33 million, 20-year loan with an interest rate of 1.76 percent for Water Treatment Plant improvements, including new clearwells.

 

The two traditional loans do not include either the 2010 or the 2011 EPA funding or the principal forgiveness provision.

Since its inception in 1987, Tennessee’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund Loan Program has awarded more than $1.2 billion in low-interest loans. Since its inception in 1996, Tennessee’s Drinking Water State Revolving Fund Loan Program has awarded more than $198 million in low-interest loans. Both programs combined award more than $80 million annually to Tennessee’s local governments for water and wastewater infrastructure projects.

Any local government interested in the SRF Loans, should contact the State Revolving Fund Loan Program, L&C Tower, 8th Floor, 401 Church Street, Nashville, TN 37243, or call (615) 532-0445. Additional information about the SRF Loan Program may be found online at www.tn.gov/environment/srf.

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TDEC: Stormwater Permits to be Issued More Efficiently Under New Program

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation; April 24, 2012:

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation announced today a new pilot program designed to build efficiencies in how construction stormwater permits are issued, while satisfying the permit requirements at both the state and local levels and improving overall water quality.

Called the Tennessee Qualified Local Program, the new pilot program’s main intent is to eliminate the duplicative efforts of the current permitting process. Funding for the QLP pilot program is made possible through a Stormwater Innovation Grant awarded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The grant objectives included developing criteria and incentives for Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4s) to become a qualified local program. Some of the most significant benefits of a QLP include:

  • A more streamlined and efficient process for managing construction stormwater by eliminating permit and review duplication at the local and state levels;
  • Eliminating additional effort at the state level for construction site operators by providing only one set of requirements to follow; and
  • A more effective construction stormwater program resulting in greater water quality protection.

While Tennessee’s QLP pilot will be implemented by TDEC, the program is based on EPA’s existing guidelines for similar programs. TDEC will review and approve up to four MS4s to pilot the QLP program for one year. There is a bill (SB 3187) under consideration in the Tennessee General Assembly sponsored by Rep. Ryan Williams and Sen. Mike Bell, which would allow any MS4 to apply with TDEC to become a qualified local program. If that bill passes, it will be effective July 1, 2013, following the pilot period for the program.

“TDEC recognized there are many local jurisdictions throughout Tennessee that have developed an effective construction stormwater program of their own and have a solid regulatory program in place,” said Environment and Conservation Commissioner Bob Martineau. “These cities are already designated as MS4s and are generally comprised of fast-growing urban communities.”

In order to achieve QLP status, the MS4 must demonstrate that its construction stormwater program meets or exceeds the provisions of the state’s Construction General Permit. After being selected to participate in the QLP program, an MS4 would be able to administer its own stormwater construction permitting program at the local level without duplicating the review and approval process at the state level.

In turn, the site owners or operators of new construction activities within the jurisdiction of the qualifying MS4 will be required to submit paperwork and any fees only at the local level, potentially saving up to $7,500 in state fees and taking less time by eliminating the additional effort at the state level. Permit coverage through the QLP program will authorize the operator of the construction activity to discharge stormwater associated with construction activity under both the state’s Construction General Permit and the QLP’s construction stormwater program. Other required permits, such as Aquatic Resource Alteration Permits, will still be handled by TDEC.

“Earlier this year Governor Haslam announced a comprehensive Top-to-Bottom review of all departments, which was a result of a year-long initiative he announced shortly after taking office,” added Martineau. “One of the key findings in TDEC’s report included opportunities for increased efficiency by streamlining processes and systems. The QLP pilot program is a move toward fulfilling that mission, while optimizing the department’s overall performance, accountability and efficiency and strengthening regulatory oversight at both the local and state levels.”

Critical to the success of this pilot program was the establishment of a diverse stakeholder committee representing a variety of groups, including MS4s, professional associations, universities and members of government, development and environmental communities. The advisory committee worked to develop the criteria and program incentives designed to encourage MS4s to achieve QLP status.

For more information about TDEC’s pilot Qualified Local Program or to submit an application for participation, please visit http://www.tn.gov/environment/wpc/stormh2o/qlp.shtml. Municipalities interested in the QLP program may also contact Robert Karesh at (615) 253-5402 or Robert.Karesh@tn.gov; and Jennifer Watson at (615) 532-0359 or Jennifer.Watson@tn.gov.

Additional information about Stormwater Construction General Permit requirements is available at http://www.tn.gov/environment/permits/conststrm.shtml.

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Press Releases

TDEC: Deadline Extended in Search for Environment Protectors

Press Release from Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation; March 15, 2012:

NASHVILLE – The Department of Environment and Conservation has extended the nomination deadline for the Governor’s 2012 Environmental Stewardship Awards, which recognize Tennesseans who go above and beyond to protect the state’s diverse environment.  The deadline for nominations has been extended to April 30, 2012.

The Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Awards cover 10 categories: Building Green; Clean Air; Energy and Renewable Resources; Environmental Education and Outreach (business category); Environmental Education and Outreach (school category); Land Use; Materials Management; Natural Heritage; Sustainable Performance and Lifetime Achievement.

Any individual, business, organization, educational institution or agency is eligible, provided they are located in Tennessee and projects were completed during the 2011 calendar year.  All nominees must have a minimum three years of environmental compliance with the Department of Environment and Conservation.  Self-nominations are encouraged.

A panel of judges representing agricultural, conservation, forestry, environmental and academic professionals will select award recipients based on criteria including on-the-ground achievement, innovation and public education.  Award recipients will be announced in late June 2012.

For more information about each category, judging criteria and nomination forms, visit TDEC’s Web site at www.tn.gov/environment/awards.

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TDEC Awarded $4.5 Million Grant to Fight Lead Paint

Press Release from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation; April 5, 2011:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner Bob Martineau will join representatives from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and special guests on Thursday, April 7 at 1 p.m., to celebrate the receipt of a $4.5 million HUD grant awarded to the department to fund lead-based paint initiatives in the North Nashville community.

Designed to protect children and families from lead-based paint hazards, the $4.5 million Lead Hazard Reduction Demonstration Grant will assist the North Nashville community in identifying and controlling these particular hazards, with an emphasis on improving safety. TDEC’s Toxic Substances Program will administer the grant and launch outreach activities in partnership with several government and community organizations.

While there are approximately 4,000 potential homes identified in Davidson County, the grant funding is targeted for use in the North Nashville area for the next 3.5 years. North Nashville was chosen after meeting specific grant criteria including: number of rental properties, area income, children under the age of six, known lead-blood issues in children and other statistical data.

“This grant will help the North Nashville community remove harmful lead paint from impacted homes and provide the tools needed to ensure families are not at risk,” said Environment and Conservation Commissioner Bob Martineau. “Protecting the health of Tennessee’s children is important to Governor Bill Haslam’s administration, and I am pleased to be part of an agency that will help foster this effort.”

The project estimates mitigating lead hazards in more than 242 residential units; conducting approximately 4,800 blood-lead tests of children less than six years of age; providing lead-safe training and job readiness opportunities to 545 eligible area residents; and increasing public awareness about childhood lead poisoning.

WHO:

Commissioner Bob Martineau, Environment and Conservation

John Gemmill, Field Office Director for U.S. Housing and Urban Development

Representative Mary Pruitt

Representative Brenda Gilmore

Jerry Maynard, Metro Councilman at Large

Deputy Commissioner Paul Sloan, Environment and Conservation

Dr. Michael Warren, Director of Maternal and Child Health, Tennessee Department of Health

Decosta Jenkins, CEO of Nashville Electric Service

Phil Ryan, Director of Metro Development and Housing Agency

Faye Ralston, Middle Tennessee State University

WHAT:

Check presentation and outreach kick-off for $4.5 million Lead Hazard Reduction Demonstration

grant, targeted for use in North Nashville.

WHEN:

Thursday, April 7, 2011 at 1 p.m.

WHERE:

Fifteenth Avenue Baptist Community Development Corporation

10th Avenue and Scovel Street

Nashville, TN 37208-2546

Even though lead-based paint was banned for residential use in 1978, HUD estimates that approximately 24 million homes still have significant lead-based paint hazards today. Lead-contaminated dust is the primary cause of lead exposure and can lead to a variety of health problems in young children, including reduced IQ, learning disabilities, developmental delays, reduced height and impaired hearing. At higher levels, lead can damage a child’s kidneys and central nervous system and cause anemia, coma convulsions and even death.

TDEC’s Toxic Substances Program works to protect the people of Tennessee from environmental and health hazards caused by three toxic substances: lead, asbestos and polychlorinated bi-phenyls. To learn more about the Toxic Substances Program, please visit http://tn.gov/environment/swm/toxicsubstancesprg/.

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Martineau Appointed as Commissioner of Tennessee Dept. of Environment and Conservation by Gov. Haslam

Press Release from Gov. Bill Haslam, Jan. 14, 2011:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Governor-elect Bill Haslam today named Robert “Bob” Martineau Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC).

Martineau is a partner at Waller Lansden Dortch and Davis, PLLC, practicing in the area of environmental and regulatory law, and he has extensive experience working with companies on the development and implementation of corporate environmental management programs and auditing programs.

At Waller Lansden, he regularly assists clients in assessing the impacts of proposed legislative or regulatory initiatives at the federal and state level and developing policy positions with respect to those initiatives. For six years, he served as Senior Counsel in the Office of the General Counsel of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“Bob Martineau is one of Tennessee’s foremost experts on environmental regulation, and I’m thankful he’s come aboard,” Haslam said. “He brings an unparalleled level of knowledge to the field, and he’ll serve Tennesseans well.”

Martineau is a member of the Air and Waste Management Association and a former council member of the Section of Natural Resources, Energy and Environmental Law of the American Bar Association.

He is also a past president of First Steps, Inc., a child development center; Tennessee Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation; and Community Health Charities, Tennessee Chapter. He serves on the Board of Directors for the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and Cumberlands.

“I’m pleased and honored that Gov.-elect Haslam has asked me to join what I believe is an outstanding Cabinet,” Martineau said. “I look forward to working with him as we take on the challenges and opportunities facing the state.”

Martineau, 52, is married to Pamela Eddy, and they have a daughter, Meredith.

A photo of Martineau can be obtained here.

For more information, please visit www.billhaslam.org.

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Business and Economy Environment and Natural Resources Liberty and Justice News

GOP Candidates Taking on Environmental Regs, Red Tape

Tennessee’s rolling rural landscapes often seem to exemplify pastoral tranquility. But environmental protection could become a roiling political issue as the 2010 gubernatorial campaign heats up.

Global warming, mountaintop removal, water quality and stream-bank protections, they’ve all been thrown into a political firestorm in ways that will test how the next governor’s administration handles regulatory authority.

Congressman Zach Wamp, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and Shelby County District Attorney General Bill Gibbons, all Republican gubernatorial candidates, lashed out at environmental regulations in the state at a recent forum in Brentwood, and environmental activists have responded with their own criticisms of the candidates’ remarks and policy priorities.

Ramsey proclaimed the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation “out of control.” Wamp said both TDEC and the Tennessee Department of Transportation “need an overhaul.” Gibbons spoke of state-governmental red tape tying up Tennesseans trying to start new businesses.

Environmental debates have often been cast, for better or worse, as a battle between natural resource preservationists and advocates of economic growth. The Bredesen administration says that’s actually a false reflection of what Tennesseans truly “expect and deserve,” which is “clean air, land and water” and a vibrant economy made up of businesses that wish to protect those things as well.

“To suggest that environmental stewardship is at odds with recruiting business to Tennessee or the successful design and completion of transportation projects is simply out of touch with current reality,” said Tisha Calabrese-Benton, communications director for the Tennessee Deptarment of Environment and Conservation. “Our experience has been that the leading businesses in Tennessee embrace responsible environmental management within their organizations.”

But GOP candidates say they’re concerned about increasingly oppressive regulations at all levels of government, and they worry some state agencies seem more interested in taking policy cues from the feds than in developing programs and protections that seek to balance the legitimate interests of all Tennesseans.

“I frankly think Gov. Bredesen has done a very good job on a lot of things. But I think there are two agencies that are not pro-growth, and they’ve let outside influences, some of which are from Washington, go overboard,” Wamp said, referring to TDEC and TDOT.

Increasingly, the topic of environmental protection is merging with the growing national debate over to what extent states are entitled to pursue their own policy objectives, free of interference from the United States government. In political clashes over the environment, the arguments more and more are revolving around which level of government, federal or state, should be taking the lead in setting the priorities and enforcing the regulations landowners must abide by.

Wamp said he’s becoming alarmed that it seems the federal Environmental Protection Agency is “all over our state.”

“They’re fining our small growers and producers,” he said. “In dairy farming, these people can’t pay their bills, and here comes the federal government with a $15,000-$25,000 fine.”

Wamp said he has seen such issues handled in better ways in the past, and he complimented the performance of Justin Wilson, who served as TDEC commissioner in the administration of Gov. Don Sundquist. Wilson is currently the state comptroller.

“(Wilson) knew the influence the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation had, and he negotiated with the federal government,” said Wamp. “He knew how to use the arm of state government known as TDEC to keep the federal government from overregulating our state.”

Wamp suggested an ideological adjustment of the agencies’ bureaucratic attitudes is currently in order.

“We need a balance of regulation, and frankly I think TDEC has been taken over by the federal bureaucrats, based on policy, and TDOT as well,” he said. “They need new management, in both those agencies, that is sensitive to local government issues.”

County and city officials across Tennessee “will tell you TDEC and TDOT are not cooperative with local governments’ needs on approving things, (like) quickly allowing them to build roads and develop infrastructure.”

Wamp called for a fresh start at the agencies. “It is bureaucratic. It is onerous. They need a new culture at TDEC and TDOT. I don’t know the personalities. I just know we need to start over.”

Gibbons said he didn’t want to identify any individual “red tape” cases, but he perceives a widespread problem for Tennessee businesses seeking various agency approvals as “a lack of movement on things, and bureaucracy sitting on matters for months and months.”

“It’s just a slow-moving bureaucracy where you can’t get the necessary permits to move forward,” he said.

Ramsey brought up streams, including blue-line streams, which refers to streams that flow consistently and are usually designated on maps with blue lines.

“There was a time when the waters were regulated in the state of Tennessee based on what are called blue line streams. I’m a licensed surveyor. I’ve been dealing with this for 20 years,” Ramsey said.

“Now it seems like TDEC has overstepped their bounds in what they’re regulating, that if two raindrops fall together suddenly they have the right to regulate it,” he added. “We’ve got to step back and look at that. We want to protect our waters, but at the same time make sure we’re using good science when we’re doing this.”

After Ramsey’s remarks on mountaintop removal, environmentalists responded, including a Christian organization known as LEAF, for Lindquist-Environmental Appalachian Fellowship. Lindquist refers to Kathy Lindquist, an environmental activist from Knoxville who died in 2005.

LEAF calls mountaintop removal “the most radical and destructive mining method known.”

The Southern Environmental Law Center says the process involves tons of explosives where coal companies destroy mountaintops, resulting in the loss of forest habitat and destruction of streams.

Last year, coal miners in other states called for boycotting Tennessee as a tourist destination in protest of legislation aimed at banning mountaintop removal.

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Press Releases

State Health Assessment Of Kingston Ash Spill Site Complete

State Of Tennessee Press Release, Dec. 22, 2009:

Public Comments Accepted Through February 9, 2010

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Health’s (TDH) Environmental Epidemiology Program, under a cooperative agreement with the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), has completed a draft health assessment for Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA) Kingston coal ash spill site and is accepting public comments now through February 9, 2010, it was recently announced. Both the 200-page assessment and a four-page fact sheet summary are available on the department’s Web site.

“We understand local residents’ concern about the potential health implications of the coal ash spill,” said Bonnie Bashor, director of the Environmental Epidemiology Program. “It’s the department’s responsibility and mission to protect the health of the people in Roane County. With this in mind, the department took very seriously the review and analysis of collected data to determine any health risks associated with coal ash exposure.”

Details about the department’s participation in a Roane County community public meeting to answer questions about the draft health assessment will be announced soon. The meeting is anticipated to be held in January 2010.

The fact sheet outlines the public health assessment (PHA) process and next steps, and lists all of the environmental data sets used in writing the PHA. The full public health assessment includes a summary, discussion, conclusions, recommendations and a public health action plan. Environmental data from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC), TVA and others are presented in the report.

Highlights of the conclusions reached in the report are as follows:

  • No harm to the community’s health is expected from touching the coal ash. Even though touching the coal ash could cause local skin irritation, the metals in the ash are not likely to get into people’s bodies from merely touching the coal ash.
  • Using municipal drinking water from the Kingston and Rockwood water treatment plants will not harm people’s health because the raw and finished water have continuously met drinking water standards. Also, using well or spring water within four miles of the coal ash release will not harm people’s health from exposure to coal ash or metals in the coal ash because no evidence has been found for groundwater contamination by coal ash.
  • Using the Emory River at the site of the coal ash release (near Emory River mile 2) could result in harm to residents or trespassers from physical hazards associated with cleanup efforts and from the volume of ash present, if residents or trespassers entered the area. No harm to people’s health should result from recreational use of the Emory, Clinch and Tennessee Rivers outside the area of the lower Emory River down to the confluence of the Emory and Clinch Rivers, as specified in the recreational advisory and river closure. As the advisory indicates, people are advised to avoid areas where they see ash, however, even if it is outside the area of immediate impact. Previous fish advisories should be followed.
  • Breathing ambient air near the coal ash release is not expected to harm people’s health as long as adequate dust suppression measures are in place. No harm to people’s health is expected from occasionally breathing coal ash if it should become airborne for short periods of time. If dust suppression measures should fail and particulate matter is present in concentrations greater than National Ambient Air Quality Standards due to the coal ash becoming airborne for periods longer than one day, the department concludes that particulate matter from airborne coal ash could harm people’s health, especially for those persons with pre-existing respiratory or heart conditions.

The draft PHA has already undergone government review by Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, TDEC, ATSDR and EPA to ensure the accuracy of the data and science used in the report. Also involved in the review of the assessment were the Tennessee Poison Center and Oak Ridge Associated Universities. The ATSDR has provided the report to three outside, independent reviewers for scientific peer review as well.

Comments must be submitted in writing. Submit via e-mail to EEP.Health@tn.gov or mail to:

Environmental Epidemiology Program

Tennessee Department of Health

1st Floor, Cordell Hull Building

425 5th Avenue North

Nashville TN 37243

December 22, 2009 marks one year since the coal ash spill, where a retaining wall failed at the TVA Kingston Fossil Plant in Roane County, Tenn. More than 5.4 million cubic yards of coal ash spilled from an on-site holding pond to cover more than 300 acres of surrounding land and water.

TDEC serves as the state’s lead agency to contain the immediate threat to human health and the environment. TDH continues to play a critical role in working with TDEC and assessing and ensuring ongoing public health protection. In the weeks following the spill, TDH went door-to-door to conduct a health survey and to share information with area residents. The department provided information to area medical practitioners. TDH operates the state lab that analyzes all the samples collected by TDEC, and provides health assessors to determine whether adverse health effects are likely based on the data.

On May 11, the United States Environmental Protection Agency signed an enforceable agreement with TVA to oversee the removal of coal ash at the TVA Kingston Plant. The state of Tennessee welcomed this action and continues to work in partnership with EPA to ensure the cleanup in Roane County is thorough and protective of public health and the environment.

For more information on the involvement of TDH in protecting residents’ health in the aftermath of the Kingston coal ash spill, visit http://health.state.tn.us/coalashspill.htm. For more information on the Environmental Epidemiology Program, visit the Website.