Environmental

Immediate Past Chair Howard Named Top 40 Under 40

The Nashville Business Journal yesterday named its 40 Under 40 Awards, with TBA Environmental Law Section Immediate Past Chair Jenny Howard making that list. Howard serves as general counsel for the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, overseeing 19 attorneys and 14 other professionals at the agency who serve as trusted advisors to its environmental and conservation programs. The TBA would like to congratulate Jenny on receiving this distinction.

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TVA Pushing Long-term Renewal Contracts to Serviced Communities

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) is pressuring municipalities to enter into long-term contracts out of concerns that communities will begin to abandon services and pursue more green initiatives, according to an article in the Knoxville News Sentinel. Since August, TVA has pressured 80% of the power companies that utilize its output to sign 20-year contracts, much longer than previous agreements. Detractors say that the move will force these communities to remain dependent on fossil fuels as opposed to providing citizens with more renewable energy options. Chattanooga, Knoxville and Memphis have yet to renew their TVA contracts.

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Tri-cities Mayors Voice Concern Over Climate Change

Tri-cities mayors are speaking up on the issue of climate change and the region’s role in addressing the problem, the Johnson City Press reports. Bristol Mayor Margaret Feierabend and Johnson City Mayor Jenny Brock implored regional leaders to act and ensure the East Tennessee municipalities make every effort to curb exacerbating factors of the trend. Kingsport Mayor Pat Shull said it’s “difficult” to say how the region can work together on a comprehensive plan, but that Kingsport will “pursue any initiative that maintains a high level of citizen service and affordability while continuing to be environmentally friendly.” Brock and Feierabend agreed that they would like to see the Tri-cities as a leader on change in the state and believe it is possible.  

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TVA Ordered to Reinstate Nuclear Program Whistleblower

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has ruled in favor of a whistleblower who was fired by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) after expressing safety concerns over the agency’s nuclear program, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. Nuclear engineer Beth Wetzel was sacked from TVA following a series of safety complaints, allegations involving violations of worker fatigue rules and questioning the inexperience of her supervisor. The DOL has ordered TVA to give Wetzel her job back and reimburse her for more than $200,000 in back pay, lost bonuses and benefits, compensatory damages and legal fees.

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TDEC Seeks Nominations for 2020 Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Awards

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) is soliciting nominations for the 2020 Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Awards, which recognize individuals, businesses, organizations and educational institutions that complete projects to preserve Tennessee’s environment. To be eligible, projects by these agencies must have been completed during the 2019 calendar year. You can find out more, including information about each category, judging criteria and nomination forms on the TDEC website.

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White House Announces First Changes to NEPA in More Than 40 Years

The White House last week announced planned changes to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), with insiders telling the New York Times that the president will instruct federal agencies to no longer consider climate change when measuring the impact of major infrastructure projects. NEPA covers guidelines for oversight when analyzing environmental effects of building roads and bridges, cutting forests, expanding broadband and approving interstate pipelines. Two anonymous sources told the paper that the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), which coordinates U.S. environmental efforts, is expected to direct the nearly 80 government agencies overseen by CEQ to disregard "cumulative" climate change impacts on such developments. This would be the first change to NEPA in 40 years.

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Tomorrow: Environmental Law Forum 2020

The TBA Environmental Law Forum will take place at the Tennessee Bar Center in Nashville tomorrow, Jan. 17. This annual event for environmental lawyers will present timely updates on legal issues involving the TVA Gallatin Fossil Plant lawsuit, the recent VW settlement, ethics in environmental law and more. Do not miss this opportunity to learn from seasoned practitioners while networking with top players in the field. Here are the key details:
 
When: Friday, Jan. 17, Registration at 10 a.m., CST
Where: Tennessee Bar Center, 221 Fourth Ave. N., Nashville
 
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Tennessee Mussels Dying at Alarming Rate for Unknown Reason

Mussels in the Clinch River — flowing from Virginia to Tennessee — are dying at an alarming rate, baffling scientists and alarming area residents, National Geographic reports. Since 2016, the river’s pheasantshell mussel population has dropped 90%, and populations of the 30-some other species of mussels dropped 50%. This die-off has contributed to the Clinch having the highest concentration of endangered aquatic animals on the continent. This is part of a massive national trend of mysterious mussel decimation, with the EPA just yesterday announcing an effort to quell dying mollusks in New York’s lower Grasse River.

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DuPont Asks Judge to Dismiss Lawsuit Over Environmental Liabilities

The DuPont Co. recently asked a Delaware judge to toss a lawsuit brought by former subsidiary Chemours alleging the industry giant misled it about the cost of environmental liabilities that would arise from a spinoff, the Washington Post reports. Dupont maintains that the lawsuit must be dismissed because of a private arbitration clause in the separation agreement. An attorney for the plaintiffs rejects this claim, saying the Federal Arbitration Act requires clear consent from both parties for an arbitration clause to be enforceable, and that Chemours gave no such consent. Delaware Vice Chancellor Sam Glasscock did not immediately rule on DuPont’s motion to dismiss. In addition to claims regarding liabilities, Chemours asks the court to order the return of a $3.9 billion dividend it paid DuPont at the time of the spinoff.

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Memphis Receives $48 Million for Wastewater Treatment Upgrades

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner David Salyers on Monday announced a $48 million loan for upgrades to the T.E. Maxson Wastewater Treatment Facility in Memphis. The money is part of the State Revolving Fund Loan Program, which provides low interest rate loans to the state’s communities, utility districts and wastewater authorities. Other cities to benefit from the program include Johnson City, which received a $15 million clean water loan and Lebanon, which received a $4.3 million clean water loan and a $1.4 million drinking water loan.

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