News

Environmental Law Forum This Thursday

The TBA’s Section on Environmental Law will host its Environmental Law Forum on Thursday to share the latest updates to the Solid Waste Rule and updated regulations on recycling. The Waters of the United States rule and implications of the Clean Power Plan will also be discussed. The course offers 3.5 CLE credits and is scheduled from 12:30-4:15 p.m. at the Tennessee Bar Center in Nashville.

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State and Chevron Debate Discovery in Lawsuit

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery may ultimately seek up to $250 million in the state’s lawsuit against Chevron, The Tennessean reports. The lawsuit, filed in September, alleges Chevron and its subsidiaries fraudulently siphoned more than $18 million from a state environmental cleanup fund. Lawyers for Chevron on Tuesday said the company should be removed from the lawsuit and accused state attorneys of “unnecessarily delaying” the case in its broad requests for evidence.

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Judge Selects Attorney to Mediate Volkswagen Lawsuits

U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer in San Francisco selected former FBI chief and attorney Robert Mueller to mediate more than 500 consumer lawsuits against Volkwagen for its deceptive software used to pass emissions tests. Chattanooga firm Patrick, Beard, Schulman & Jacoway PC filed a class action lawsuit against the automaker in October 2015, joining more than 175 class actions filed in 32 states. Read more from Bloomberg BNA.

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Tennessee Will Not Challenge EPA's New Carbon Limits

Attorney General Herbert Slatery III announced last week that the state will not join in a legal challenge to the Environmental Protection Agency’s new carbon restrictions on power plants. State attorneys in 27 states are suing the Obama administration over the limits, claiming the EPA overstepped its authority. The Times Free Press reports Tennessee Valley Authority, the state’s primary power provider, has already taken most of the steps required to meet the new carbon controls and plans to shut down more than half of its 59 coal-fired generators. Some state Republican lawmakers are urging Slatery to reconsider joining the legal challenge and say that the limits will cause increases in power rates.

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State Sues Chevron, Accuses Company of 'Double Recovery'

Attorney General Herbert Slatery III filed a lawsuit against Chevron, accusing the petroleum company of a 30-year "prolonged and costly scheme" to fraudulently siphon more than $18 million from a cleanup fund. The fund receives four-tenths of a penny per gallon purchased by Tennesseans at the pump and reimburses tank owners for expenses during spill cleanups. The Tennessean reports that the lawsuit, filed in Davidson County Chancery Court, alleges Chevron and its subsidiaries engaged in "double recovery" by using the funds to pay for leaks and spills at more than 100 Tennessee gas stations while having private insurance also pay cleanup costs.

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Water-rights Lawsuit to Increase Rates for MLGW Customers

A $615 million water-rights lawsuit filed against Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division, the city of Memphis and Tennessee will result in a 22 percent rate increase for MLGW customers. The increase is associated with the lawsuit and will add an average of $3.21 a month to customers’ water bills, The Commercial Appeal reports. The lawsuit, filed by Mississippi, claims the defendants have "forcibly" taken its water through excessive pumping from an aquifer underlying both states. The U.S. Supreme Court in June granted Mississippi’s request to file suit. 

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9th Annual Environmental Writing Competition Underway

The TBA Environmental Law Section has announced the ninth annual Jon E. Hastings Memorial Award writing competition for law students enrolled in a Tennessee law school in 2015 or 2016. The competition is held in memory of one of the section's most outstanding founding members and has a cash prize pool of $1,200. It is a juried competition for the best legal writing on a topic of Tennessee or federal environmental law. Entries are due April 1, 2016. Download the competition rules and announcement.

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A Look Back on the 'Days of the Dam and the Darter'

Cleveland Daily Banner writer Larry Bowers recalls the legal ins and outs of the snail darter controversy that involved the delay of construction of the Tellico Dam on the Little Tennessee River in 1973. Learn more about the little fish and the big dam in this 2009 Tennessee Bar Journal article.

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Attorney Says VW Hearing Should Be in Chattanooga

Chattanooga is “the most logical place for consolidating the Volkswagen litigation because it is the only location in the country where VW vehicles are being produced,” according to attorney Gary Patrick. The Chattnoogan reports that Patrick’s firm - Patrick, Beard, Schulman and Jacoway – filed one of the first actions in federal court in Chattanooga following VW’s admission to cheating in order to pass emissions tests.

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Sign Up Today to be a Mentor

The TBA Mentoring Program is seeking volunteer mentors from across the state within specific practice areas: Nashville, Civil Rights; Brentwood, Environmental; Columbia, Litigation, General Practice, Real Estate and/or Probate and Trust; Memphis, Intellectual Property. Those participating in the program will commit to a formal mentoring relationship for one year, with a requirement to meet face-to-face at least once a month. For more information, visit the TBA Mentoring Program webpage or contact TBA staff member Christy Gibson, (615) 383-7421.

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Tennessee Joins Lawsuit Against EPA

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery joined the state of Tennessee to an Ohio lawsuit against the EPA challenging the highly controversial Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule. Led by Tennessee State Rep. Sheila Butt, R-Columbia, the effort included calls from 63 Tennessee lawmakers, the Tennessee Farm Bureau, and many other agriculture and small business organizations. The Nashville Post has more.

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Environmental Court on Table for Bradley County

A closely divided Bradley County Commission has tentatively agreed to fund half the $35,000 price tag for a new environmental court position, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. The Cleveland City Council recently voted to approve funding half the position's cost, contingent upon a similar commitment from the county. Cases coming before environmental court are generally property-related health and safety issues.

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BP to Pay $18.7 Billion for Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

Officials announced an $18.7 billion settlement with BP today that resolves years of litigation over the deadly 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The rig blast killed 11 workers and sent millions of barrels of oil gushing into the gulf for nearly three months on to the shorelines of several states including Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. WREG has more.

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Court: Mississippi Can Pursue Water Suit Against Tennessee

The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday granted Mississippi’s request to file a new lawsuit claiming Memphis is stealing its water, keeping alive a legal battle now in its 11th year. Four years ago, the court denied a similar request, the Commercial Appeal reports. The proposed complaint seeks at least $615 million in damages from Memphis, the city-owned Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division, and the state of Tennessee. The court’s order gives defendants 30 days to respond.

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Court Grants 2, Declines Several for Fall

The U.S. Supreme Court will take up a Texas affirmative action case when it returns in the fall. It also may hear challenges to a Texas law requiring certain abortion clinics to close, but gave the clinics a reprieve -- allowing them to stay open -- until a final decision is made. In addition, the justices rejected a number of cases, including a copyright dispute between Google with Oracle, an appeal of Clean Water Act fines imposed on BP and Anadarko Petroleum Corp. for the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill and two public corruption cases. WDEF News 12 and Knoxnews have more on those decisions.

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Court Upholds Use of Execution Drug, Suit Against EPA

Before departing Washington, D.C., for its summer recess, Supreme Court justices gathered for one final conference today, which yielded three opinions, all decided by 5-4 votes. In the first opinion, the majority found that use of the execution drug midazolam does not violate the Eighth Amendment, while two dissenting justices said for the first time they think it is "highly likely" the death penalty itself is unconstitutional, the Associated Press reports. In the other cases, the majority found that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should have considered costs in the regulation of toxic air pollution from coal- and oil-fired power and that the state of Arizona may use a independent commission to draw congressional districts. The ABA Journal has more on those decisions.

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Chambliss, Bahner is First LEED Gold Certified Law Firm in Tennessee

Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel PC is the only law office in the state to have earned LEED® Gold certification for its commercial interiors, according to a public directory of projects. The LEED rating system, developed by the U.S. Green Building Council totes a holistic approach to building design, prioritizing long-term energy-efficiency as well as worker health and productivity. Its offices are located within Chattanooga's Liberty Tower, which recently became the largest LEED® v2009 Gold certified core and shell project in Tennessee.

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Belmont Student Wins 2015 Hastings Writing Competition

The 2015 Jon E. Hastings Memorial Award Writing Competition winner is Patty Whitehead, a third-year law student at Belmont University College of Law. Sponsored by the TBA Environmental Law Section, the Hastings award is a juried competition for the best legal writing on a topic of Tennessee or federal environmental law and is open to law students enrolled in a Tennessee law school. Whitehead's paper "Opportunities for Environmental Justice Review in Title V Permits Under the Tennessee Air Quality Act" addresses disproportionate air quality among minority and low-income communities under Title V permit rules.

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Water Wars Return to the High Court

Water wars return to the U.S. Supreme Court in a lawsuit Mississippi hopes to bring against Tennessee, SCOTUSblog reports. The dispute centers on water pumped by the city of Memphis from an aquifer that spans the states’ borders. Mississippi is seeking rights to the water and $615 million in damages. The U.S. solicitor general weighed in last week with a recommendation that the court deny Mississippi’s motion to file the suit, arguing that until the water is apportioned, there can be no claim of inequitable apportionment.

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6th Circuit Clears Oak Ridge Protestors of Sabotage

An 85-year-old nun and two Army veterans sent to prison after breaking into the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge did not commit sabotage and should be re-sentenced, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday. The decision overturns the sabotage convictions but upholds convictions for damaging government property. The appeals court directed the trial court to re-sentence the three in light of the reduced charges and the time they have already served. All three have been jailed since May 2013, Reuters reports.

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Environmental Law Section Meets at Gatlinburg Event

The TBA Environmental Law Section held it annual meeting and seminar in Gatlinburg in conjunction with the Environmental Show of the South. The event included presentations by state government officials, company executives, private attorneys and representatives of various interest groups. During the three-day event, the section honored Tony Vick, deputy chief disciplinary counsel at the Board of Professional Responsibility. Vick has spoken at the program for a number of years and is retiring. Read more and see photos from the event.

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Environmental Law Section Honors Vick at Annual Meeting

The Tennessee Bar Association Environmental Law Section's recent annual meeting and seminar in Gatlinburg, April 22-24, was in conjunction with the Environmental Show of the South. This marked the 44th year of the Show of the South and the TBA section has been a part of this program for many years. Section member James C. Wright says the group was honored to have the participation of each of these speakers. The group gave special thanks and well wishes to speaker Tony Vick, who has spoken for several years at this program. Vick was set to retire the week after this presentation.

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Reception Honoring Environmental Commissioner April 23

A reception honoring Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner Bob Martineau Jr. will be held Thursday at 4:30 p.m. at the Gatlinburg Overlook, 553 Greystone Heights Rd. The event is sponsored by BDY Natural Sciences Consultants, Richard C, Young and the TBA Environmental Law Section. View the invitation

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Longtime Chattanooga Lawyer Dies

Chattanooga lawyer James “Jim” Walter Gentry Jr. died last Tuesday (Feb. 10) at the age of 86. Gentry began law school at the University of North Carolina but withdrew to join the Marine Corps. After serving (and being wounded) in Korea, he attended Vanderbilt University Law School and completed his law degree in 1956. Gentry moved to Chattanooga and began practicing with several firms before forming Gentry & Boehm, which focused on environmental law cases. The firm dissolved in 1991 and Gentry rejoined Spears, Moore, Rebman & Williams, where he remained until retiring. Memorials may be made to the James W. and Margaret A. Gentry Scholarship at the University of the South, the Hospice of Chattanooga or MD Anderson Cancer Center. The funeral service will be private. Chattanoogan.com has more on his life.

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'Trash Board' to Seek AG Opinion On Trustee Fee

The Solid Waste Disposal Commission voted 4-3 on Wednesday to solicit an opinion from the Tennessee Attorney General to settle the dispute with the Loudon County Trustee’s Office over the 1 percent commission currently being charged to manage and invest revenues, the News Herald reports. Attorney Kevin Stevens told commissioners that he did not think the 1 percent fee had a legal basis. The panel also voted 6-1 to begin commission meetings with the Pledge of Allegiance and a prayer, and considered trimming attorney fees and expenses by meeting twice per month but did not take action.

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