News

Newly Obtained Documents Show Effort to Influence Trump on Paris Accord

Bob Murray, CEO of Ohio-based Murray Energy, sent the Trump administration drafts of executive orders for withdrawing from the Paris climate accord, reports USA Today. The orders also would have rolled back coal regulations that Murray thought were a burden to his industry. The documents, originally obtained by E&E News, only needed Trump’s signature to become directive.

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Judge Orders EPA to Disclose Science Behind Climate Claims

A federal judge has ordered that the Environmental Protection Agency must disclose agency information used to backup claims made by administrator Scott Pruitt during a television appearance, Ars Technica reports. Pruitt told a CNBC anchor in 2017 that carbon dioxide is not “a primary contributor” to climate change, prompting a group called Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility to file a Freedom of Information Act request for EPA documents that show how he came to that conclusion. After the EPA refused, the group sued them. U.S. District Court Judge Beryl A. Howell ruled that the EPA must comply with the request by July 2, and if such documents cannot be provided, an explanation for their absence must be provided by July 11.
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A Wellness Tip from the Attorney Well-Being Committee

Rather than checking on every e-mail as it arrives, schedule time in your calendar for reading and managing e-mail (and leave e-mail notifications silent during the other times of the day).  This will enable you to have focused time for given tasks without constant interruption and distraction.
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Tennessee Landfills Deviate From National Trends

Despite capacity problems at waste sites elsewhere, most of Tennessee's landfills have enough space for at least a decade's worth of garbage, The Commercial Appeal reports. According to an evaluation published by the Tennessee Department of Energy and Conservation (TDEC), of 31 landfills operating across the state, 13 have more than 25 years' capacity remaining, while another nine have at least 10 years’ worth of space, with only four waste sites having 5 years or less worth of space available. 
 
Likely contributors to the profusion of space are recycling and composting operations, along with energy-producing incinerators, which divert trash from landfills. Tennessee is an outlier in this aspect as long-term national landfill capacity in the U.S., by some estimations, may drop by more than 15 percent in the next five years. You can read TDEC’s full report here.
 
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2018 Governor's Environmental Stewardship Award Winners Announced

Gov. Bill Haslam and Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) Commissioner Shari Meghreblian announced the winners of the 2018 Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Awards last Wednesday, according to a press release on TDEC’s website. The program recognizes projects and initiatives, not required by law or regulation, that improve or protect the environment and natural resources, covering nine categories: Building Green; Clean Air; Energy and Renewable Resources; Environmental Education and Outreach; Environmental Education and Outreach (schools); Land Use; Materials Management; Natural Heritage and Sustainable Performance. Six additional entities will be announced at an awards ceremony, to be held in Franklin on July 9. Award recipients are listed below.
 
  • Bells Bend Conservation Corridor, Davidson, Land Use
  • Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Davidson, Materials Management
  • Hytch, Davidson, Clean Air
  • Whites Creek High School, Davidson, Environmental Education and Outreach (schools)
  • Knoxville Partnerships for Low-Income Weatherization, Knox, Environmental Education and Outreach
  • General Motors of Spring Hill, Maury, Sustainable Performance
  • Montgomery County Energy Upgrades, Montgomery, Energy and Renewable Resources
  • Window Cliffs State Natural Area, Putnam, Natural Heritage
  • Crosstown Concourse, Shelby, Building Green
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Register for Convention Now to Lock in Early Bird Savings

Registration rates for the TBA Annual Convention go up on June 1, so be sure to sign up now to lock in the early-bird savings. This year’s convention is packed with compelling programming – highlighted by the Gubernatorial Candidate Forum – as well as plenty of opportunities for you to meet with old friends and make new contacts. Register online now.

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Construction of Uranium Processing Facility Brings Hundreds of Jobs to East Tennessee

About 400 skilled craft employees and professional services personnel will join the state's largest construction project, Y-12 National Security Complex's Uranium Processing Facility, Knox News reports. The complex was built to enrich uranium for atomic weapons as part of the top-secret Manhattan Project during World War II, and it remains the nation’s primary site for processing and storing highly enriched uranium used in nuclear weapons. The Y-12 facility has been the subject of controversy, with several environmental organizations filing suit alleging several old buildings at Y-12 could collapse during a natural disaster. The $6.5 billion construction project will continue hiring to a peak of around 900 skilled craft employees and 1,000 professional services personnel.

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White House, EPA Delay Results of Chemical Pollution Study

The EPA and White House sought to block publication of a federal health study on a nationwide water-contamination crisis after one Trump administration aide warned it would cause a "public relations nightmare," Politico reports. The intervention early this year when the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service's (HHS) Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry was preparing to publish its assessment of a class of toxic chemicals that have contaminated water supplies near military bases, chemical plants and other sites from New York to Michigan to West Virginia.

The study would show that the chemicals endanger human health at a far lower level than EPA has previously called safe, according to emails obtained by the Union of Concerned Scientists through the Freedom of Information Act. The draft study remains unpublished, and HHS says it has no scheduled date to release it for public comment. The chemicals at issue in the HHS study, perfluorooctanoic and perfluorooctanesulfonic acids, have been linked with thyroid defects, problems in pregnancy and certain cancers, even at low levels of exposure. 

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Environmental Show of the South Starts Wednesday in Chattanooga

The Environmental Show of the South is the largest and most comprehensive environmental conference and trade show in the region. Learn about compliance from both regulators and the regulated community. The 47th annual event will be held May 16-18 in Chattanooga. 
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Share Your Thoughts on Proposed Amendments to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 6

The Supreme Court recently requested comment on proposed amendments to TSC Rule 6 that would require new attorneys to complete a Tennessee Law Course within one year of admission to the Tennessee bar. The Tennessee Bar Association has a working group on this issue and will be drafting comments in response to the court's Order for Comment. To ensure this comment best reflects members’ views and positions, the groups is looking for your feedback. Share your thoughts about the proposed amendments through this form by June 8.
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    Environmental Court Begins in Rutherford County on June 6

    Rutherford County’s new Environmental Court will hold its initial docket at 1 p.m. on June 6 at the county’s new Judicial Center, the Daily News Journal reports. General Sessions Court Judge Lisa Eischeid will preside. Jeff Davidson, deputy to the county mayor, said officials are hoping the court will provide better understanding in the community of the costs of dealing with trash, especially when a local private landfill is expected to close in the next decade. Residents can earn rewards for violations that lead to convictions.
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    Commissioner's Reception Tomorrow

    The TBA Environmental Law Section invites its members to a reception honoring the new Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner Shari Meghreblian. The reception will be held in Chattanooga on May 16, coinciding with the Environmental Show of the South. This is a great opportunity to network with section members and other professionals in the Tennessee environmental community while welcoming Shari into her new role as commissioner. Here are the key details:

    • When: Wednesday, May 16, 5 p.m., EDT
    • Where:  Chattanooga Convention Center, South Rotunda, 1150 Carter St, Chattanooga, TN 37402

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    Volunteers Needed to Help with FEMA Issues in American Samoa

    The ABA YLD Disaster Legal Services Team anticipates potentially three to four thousand appealable issues. There is only one legal aid agency on the island, and it is staffed with two full-time attorneys and one paralegal, which was operating near capacity prior to the disaster. The private bar is also very small, with less than a dozen private attorneys on the island who could take cases. Without your help, most of the people with FEMA issues in American Samoa will not have access to legal assistance.  
     
    Please volunteer by signing up here or contacting Linda Anderson at landerson@bals.org
     
    If you're not sold on volunteering yet, here are some other points to consider: 
    • We have a coordinator stateside and a local paralegal in American Samoa to help manage the casework.
    • American Samoa is a few hours behind the states, (seven hours behind Eastern) so if you set aside some time in the afternoon/evening, you'll be corresponding during the normal workday in American Samoa.
    • Many of the Appeals are not complicated, and may only require a relatively straightforward response to FEMA.
    • Training/mentorship/templates are available. 
    • You don't need to have any prior experience in this area.
    Did you know - American Samoa yields the highest rate of military enlistment of ANY U.S. State or Territory per capita. Let's honor that commitment by helping American Samoa in its time of need. 
     
    You may contact Terica Smith for more information.
     
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    Prominent Gay Rights Lawyer Commits Suicide by Self-Immolation

    David S. Buckel, a lawyer nationally known for being a champion of gay rights died earlier this month, after setting himself on fire, The New York Times reports. Buckel was the lead attorney in Brandon v. County of Richardson, in which a Nebraska county sheriff was found liable for failing to protect Brandon Teena, a transgender man who was murdered in Falls City, Nebraska. The murder of Teena was depicted in the film "Boys Don’t Cry."
     
    A staunch advocate for LGBTQ persons, Buckel also served as marriage project director and senior counsel at Lambda Legal, a national organization that fights for the civil rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. According to police, Buckel left a note in a shopping cart not far from his body that alluded to environmental protest as the reason for his suicide. The note was also emailed to several news media outlets. Buckel was 60 years old.
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    Correction: TDEC Announces New Commissioner Shari Meghreblian

    This article has been updated to reflect the correct spelling of Shari Meghreblian's name.
     
    Shari Meghreblian, the deputy commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation since 2011, is Gov. Bill Haslam's new pick to lead the department reports The Nashville Post. Meghreblian will replace Bob Martineau, who recently joined the new Nashville office of Knoxville-based real estate development firm LHP Capital.
     
    Meghreblian assisted in creating a statewide plan addressing future water availability and is a board member of the West Tennessee River Basin Authority. She holds a Ph.D. degree in environmental management and a master’s degree in engineering from Vanderbilt University. Meghreblian will begin her new position on May 1.
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    This Month: Environmental Show of the South

    The 47th annual Environmental Show of the South, the largest and most comprehensive environmental conference and tradeshow in the region, returns to the Chattanooga Convention Center May 16 – 18. This forum has proven to be a must-see, must-do event for environmental agencies and lawyers alike, featuring timely information on regulations, compliance and other hot topics relevant to your practice.
     
    Network with colleagues, learn about new developments and meet vendors offering a full spectrum of environmental goods and services, all while obtaining necessary CLE credits. You can view the conference agenda here.
     
    • When: Registration begins May 16, 7:30 a.m., CDT
    • Where: Chattanooga Convention Center, 1150 Carter St, Chattanooga, TN 37402
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    Next Week: Animal Law Forum 2018

    The 2018 Animal Law Forum is just a short week away! This year’s forum will be held in beautiful Montgomery Bell State Park, which offers an array of activities such as biking, boating, fishing, golfing and hiking. Don’t miss this opportunity to fulfill necessary CLE obligations while networking with colleagues in the scenic spring backdrop. Here’s the key info:
     
    • When: Friday, May 11, Registration begins at 8:30 a.m., CDT
    • Where: Montgomery Bell State Park, 1000 Hotel Avenue, Burns, TN 37029
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    Martineau Departs TDEC

    Commissioner Bob Martineau is leaving the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) for a private sector job, the Nashville Post reports. Previously a partner at Waller, Martineau has been the head of TDEC since 2011. The agency will announce his replacement this week.
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    Lawsuit Involving Construction of Oak Ridge Uranium Processing Facility Moved to Knoxville

    A federal lawsuit that asks for an environmental review of the new multi-building design for the Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) at the Y-12 National Security Complex has been transferred from Washington, D.C., to Knoxville, reports Oak Ridge Today. The transfer was requested in September by the defendants, U.S. Energy Secretary James Richard “Rick” Perry and Frank G. Klotz, former administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration, an agency within the U.S. Department of Energy that manages nuclear weapons programs and facilities. United States District Judge Dabney L. Friedrich, who was assigned the case in December, granted the motion to transfer the lawsuit from the District of Columbia to U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee on March 23.
     
    The complaint argues that a new environmental impact statement should be prepared for the new design for the UPF, the largest federal construction project in Tennessee since World War II. The plaintiffs allege that the use of several old buildings at Y-12 to house nuclear weapons work is risky because the old buildings could collapse during a major earthquake, possibly leading to a nuclear accident that could cause the release of radiological materials. Federal officials denied that allegation and others in a 29-page answer filed Sept. 29, 2017, calling the allegations vague, ambiguous or speculative, adding that safety and technical analyses are underway at Y-12.
     
    The plaintiffs previously listed the reasons for filing their complaint in the District of Columbia, citing the fact that multi-building UPF was made by a federal agency in the Washington, D.C., area; the named defendants are (or were) located there; and the information that the NNSA allegedly failed to consider originated in other federal agencies in the nation’s capital. The plaintiffs also said the important issues raised in the litigation — issues regarding the safety of the nation’s nuclear weapons program are “issues of overriding national significance and interest,” which favored keeping the case in Washington, D.C.
     
    The defendants, however, asked to move the lawsuit to East Tennessee stating, “This question should be decided in the Eastern District of Tennessee, where the Y-12 Complex is located,” a September 28 memorandum supporting its motion to transfer. “The matters at issue, in this case, are local at every turn,” the government attorneys said.
     
    Granting the motion to transfer, Friedrich said private and public interest factors both weigh in favor of moving the case to East Tennessee.“There is a substantial local interest in having this action decided in Tennessee,” she said. “The potential health and environmental effects in the locality of the Y-12 Complex and its surrounding areas present unique hazards that gravely impact residents in the Eastern District of Tennessee."
     
    The Y-12 complex was built to enrich uranium for atomic weapons as part of the top-secret Manhattan Project during World War II, and it remains the nation’s primary site for processing and storing highly enriched uranium used in nuclear weapons.
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    Dandridge Named Interim Environmental Court Judge

    Following the retirement of Judge Larry Potter, the Shelby County Board of Commissioners have chosen Patrick Dandridge to serve as interim Environmental Court judge until a new one can be elected, The Commercial Appeal reports. Dandridge, a Memphis Public Works deputy director, was chosen over Juvenile Court Magistrate Judge Carlyn Addison and attorney Michael Campbell. All three choices, as well as Danny Kail and Robert “Price” Harris, have picked up the paperwork to run for the seat in the general election, which will be held Aug. 2.
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    Tennessee Riverkeeper Offer Earth Day Events with Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

    Tennessee Riverkeeper will host two special events in Nashville on April 19. The first will be a luncheon and panel discussion on civil rights and the environment, with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and others. It will be held at Woolworth on 5th from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The second event will be held at Acme Feed & Seed beginning at 6 p.m., featuring an exclusive VIP meet and greet with Kennedy, along with musical performances from Emmylou Harris, the Shawn Camp band and more. Here’s the key info:
     
    Woolworth on 5th 
    211 5th Avenue North Nashville, TN 37219
    11:30 a.m.–1:30 p.m. 
     
    Acme Feed & Seed
    101 Broadway Nashville, TN 37219
    6 p.m., Meet and Greet
    7:30 p.m .– 9:30 p.m., Performances
     
    Host Committee for the event include:
    • John Esposito
    • Bill Freeman
    • Sarah Finklea
    • Stephen Glicken
    • Emmylou Harris
    • Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
    • Robert F. Kennedy, III
    • Tom Morales
    • Nissan North America
    • Stephanie & Thomas O’Keefe
    • Josh Segall
    • Dolores Seigenthaler
    • John Michael Seigenthaler
    • Peter Shapiro
    • Guthrie Trapp
    • David Whiteside
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    Are Aerosol Cans the Next Federal 'Universal Waste' to be Recycled?

    Remember back in the ‘60s or ‘70s or ‘80s when, against all of the rules, kids in the neighborhood would play ‘Army’ and create a flamethrower from certain items around the house? [Warning: don’t be a knucklehead and try to recreate the memories!!!] These days, very stringent regulations pursuant to the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (“RCRA”) generally apply to those aerosol canisters due to the ignitability characteristics that used to fascinate so many of us. Now, EPA has recently proposed a rule — 83 Fed. Reg. 11654, March 16, 2018 — to redefine hazardous waste aerosol cans as ‘Universal Wastes,’ a classification the agency believes can enhance recycling if it applies the lower standard to discarded aerosol cans. This will ease the management and handling requirements for aerosol cans by adding many of those to a federal ‘universal waste’ list that includes other ubiquitous items such as fluorescent bulbs or lamps, some pesticides and certain batteries.
     
    The EPA believes the rule change may encourage aerosol can recycling. The EPA also proposes criteria for puncturing/draining the vessels. The rule changes, if adopted, would allow longer collection/storage periods for the cans at retail stores or a facility and the changes could increase (up to five times greater) the amount that one could accumulate on-site. The EPA has published the proposed rule on its website. Comments on the proposal are encouraged by April 16 and must be submitted to the government no later than May 15 at Docket Number EPA-HQ-OLEM-2017-0463 for consideration. If you would like to discuss this proposed rule, preparing a comment to be submitted, or any other environmental matter, please contact David at dhigney@gkhpc.com, or call him at 423.756.8400, ext. 230.
     

    David Higney is a past chair of the Tennessee Bar Association’s Environmental Law Section and continues to serve on the Section’s Executive Council. Higney is licensed in both Tennessee and Georgia and has concentrated his practice in business litigation and environmental matters (regulatory and advocacy) before state and federal agencies/tribunals for over 25 years.
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    TVA v. Hill 40th Anniversary Panel

    Two panels, with attorneys who argued this landmark case, will celebrate the 40th anniversary of TVA v. Hill at the Sixth Circuit Judicial Conference in Nashville on May 16–17 at 3 p.m. This case, originally argued in the Sixth Circuit, prompted the United States Supreme Court’s first interpretation of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, drastically impacting federal environmental law. The court upheld the Sixth Circuit opinion by a 6-3 vote. More information and registration for the conference can be found here.

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    Chicken Plant Rejected by Kansas Town Finds New Home in Gibson County

    A chicken plant originally planned and rejected by a Kansas town has found a new home in Gibson County, reports The Tennessean. Tyson Foods, the world's largest processor and marketer of chicken, beef and pork, has announced that the plant will be located at the Gibson County Industrial Site with close proximity to rail and Interstate 40. As part of the deal, Tyson has been awarded $18 million in incentives through the state's FastTrack grants that will go toward additional infrastructure, and the county has offered a tax abatement deal estimated to total $16 million over the next 20 years. 
     
    Gibson County Economic Development Director Kingsley Brock says he and other local officials were aware of the Kansas pushback and vetted Arkansas-based Tyson accordingly. "I knew we had something good. It was just a matter of time," said Brock. "It turned out we were at the right place at the right time." Tyson said it was drawn to the available workforce in Gibson County, proximity to grain and available infrastructure. Jobs will have wages ranging from $13 to $20 an hour, plus benefits. Many management and administrative jobs also will be offered. 
     
    One of the biggest complaints about the Tyson project in Kansas was the infrastructure needed to accommodate both the plant and an expected to be an influx of new residents taking jobs there. Roads would need upgrades to support the heavy trucks, the sewer system would need to be extended and schools could be overwhelmed, residents said. The county had planned to issue $500 million in industrial bond revenue to support the facility, along with $7 million for utilities and another $1 million for sewer lines. Residents also objected to the perceived secrecy surrounding the project prior to the announcement and raised concerns about smells associated with chicken farms, possible exposure to ammonia and the potential for water pollution. The debate came to a head at a crowded town hall meeting in September, drawing about 2,000 people, according to media reports.
     
    Other concerns raised involve reports of the company releasing more than 20 million pounds of toxic chemicals into U.S. waterways in 2014, more than any other agricultural company, according to a 2016 report from Environment America Research & Policy Center. Tyson spokesman Worth Sparkman disputed the report as inaccurate and misleading. Water from plants is returned to streams after it is treated by government-regulated systems and most farmers raising animals are required to follow nutrient management plans, he said. Tyson was also among chicken companies sued in 2005 for polluting the Illinois River with chicken waste. In 2015, the company settled a case in Missouri for chemical releases that killed more than 100,000 fish in a Missouri creek. 
     
    Regarding water concerns, Gibson County Mayor Tom Witherspoon says he has full confidence in the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) to regulate the chicken plant and contributing farms. But, under new legislation signed into law in February, chicken farmers raising poultry for Tyson will no longer be required to obtain TDEC permits. TDEC spokeswoman Kim Schofinski said the state can still enforce against water quality violations, mostly identified through complaint investigations or TDEC's routine sampling. "Our investigative process, as well as routine water quality monitoring, can potentially identify a link between an impact and a specific activity or source," she said in an emailed statement.
     
    Having watched what unfolded in Kansas, Witherspoon said local officials sought to engage the community and involve them in the process early on. They held meetings with area farmers and talked with community leaders about the Tyson prospect ahead of the announcement, made in November, and the project has been well-received by farmers and the business community. Any pushback Witherspoon said he has received has been from a handful of residents who fear the jobs will attract an influx of immigrants to the area, a concern he brushes off. "Anybody who wants to come to Gibson County, get here legally, get up and go to work every day, pay their bills, provide for their families and obey our laws and keep their yard picked up, they are welcome," he said.
     
    Tyson currently maintains a plant in Obion County, employing 1,000 people in Obion County's Union City and is adding 300 more jobs as part of an $84 million expansion “They have been a blessing to Obion County and surrounding counties with their employment," Obion County Mayor Benny McGuire said.  “The company's presence has sustained Obion County’s tax base, paying for schools and roads.” In Gibson County, officials are optimistic the plant will trigger new business creation and help them lure more companies to the area and to the industrial site, once Tyson is established.
     
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    Shelby County Commission to Appoint Environmental Court Judge in April

    The Shelby County Commission plans to appoint an interim General Sessions Environmental Court judge on April 2, with Monday being the deadline for applications, the Memphis Daily News reports. The vacancy was created by the retirement of Larry Potter, who served in the role since this position was created in the 1980’s. The commission will interview applicants during the March 28 committee sessions. Whomever gets the appointment will serve until the August election, when someone will be elected to fill the remainder of Potter’s eight-year term
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