Environmental

EPA Delays Roll Out of Science Transparency Rule

The Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday announced that it is delaying plans to roll out a controversial rule on how the agency evaluates science, ABC News reports. The ‘transparency in regulatory science’ rule — which intends to make scientific data underlying the EPA's actions publicly available for independent validation — has been controversial since proposed by former administrator Scott Pruitt who sought to reconsider what he maintained were unnecessary and burdensome regulations within the agency. Critics fear the rule may force regulators to ignore findings of public health-related surveys since most patient-related data is confidential.

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This Friday: Environmental Law Forum 2019

This year’s Environmental Law Forum will be held Friday, Feb. 1 at the Tennessee Bar Center. Topics for the forum will include language updates and revisions to the Brownfield Voluntary Agreement, developments in Tennessee water law — including 2018 amendments to the Water Quality Control Act, the October 2018 amendments to water quality standards and Aquatic Resource Alteration Permit (ARAP) rules — and emerging contaminants. In this year's ethics seminar, we will explore competence, diligence and communication with clients as specifically related to the practice. Do not miss this opportunity to learn from seasoned practitioners while networking with top players in the field.

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UT Study Seeks to Determine if Fracking May Lead to Antibiotic-Resistant Microbes

A University of Tennessee professor is studying the effects of fracking and how it can affect regional water health, The Knoxville News Sentinel reports. Terry Hazen, the University of Tennessee-Oak Ridge National Lab Governor's Chair for Environmental Biotechnology, has joined a team in Pennsylvania to test fracking wastewater in the state to determine if prolonged use of biocides in fracking fluid could lead to antibiotic-resistant microbes. The three-year study is funded by an $80,000 grant given through the National Science Foundation.

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Appeals Court Reverses Gallatin Fossil Plant Coal Ash Cleanup Order

A federal appellate panel last Monday overturned an order that would have required the Tennessee Valley Authority to unearth and remove a massive amount of coal ash at the Gallatin Fossil Plant, The Washington Post reports. In a 2-1 decision, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals maintained that leaks from unlined coal ash pits through groundwater into the Cumberland River are a “major environmental problem” but the Clean Water Act isn’t the “proper legal tool of correction” to address it. A district judge in 2017 ordered the coal ash to be excavated and removed, citing Clean Water Act violations regarding pollutants leaking into the Cumberland River. You can read the opinion here.

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Hamilton County Commissioners to Vote on New Wastewater Plant

Hamilton County commissioners will vote Wednesday on a proposal to buy land for a new wastewater treatment plant, The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. The county intends to pay $3 million for the 150-acre site, with the plant expected to cost another $45 million. Funding for the project will come from $125 million in bonds the county sold after a property tax increase last year.

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Several Chattanooga Neighborhoods Added to EPA List of Most Toxic Places

Several Chattanooga neighborhoods are considered among the U.S.'s most toxic places, The Times Free Press reports. The Environmental Protection Agency recently added the Southside Chattanooga Lead Site to its Superfund National Priorities List, making it a top priority for cleanup. The area — which was home to industrial operations that used toxic material as fill and topsoil — tested nearly four times higher than the EPA's benchmark for unsafe lead levels.

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EPA's Reconsideration of Mercury Rule Sparks Concerns in the Environmental Community

Last week the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it would reconsider a regulation that restricts mercury emissions by coal-burning power plants, The New York Times reports. The 2011 mercury rule has been one of the EPA’s most effective policies, with mercury pollution falling 70 percent since its inception. Some who oppose changes to mercury rule have concerns that the move will weaken the EPA’s ability to write new pollution standards in the future. A spokesman for the EPA, Joe Konkus said that the agency “knows these issues are of importance to the regulated community and the public at large and is committed to a thoughtful and transparent regulatory process in addressing them.”

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Environmental Groups Sue TVA Over Grid Access Charge

Five environmental groups have filed a lawsuit against the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) in an attempt to block a new grid access charge scheduled to begin next month, The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. The plaintiffs maintain that the planned TVA rate changes and cutbacks in renewable and energy efficiency programs will discourage consumers from investing in solar, wind and energy efficiency projects and harm the environment as a result. The new grid access charge is set to take effect Oct. 1 and will require municipalities and power cooperatives to pay a mandatory electricity fee regardless of their energy usage. You can view the complaint here.

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TVA Invites Public Input on Proposed Updates to Natural Resource Plan

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) is soliciting public opinions regarding updating its 2011 Natural Resource Plan, according to a press release on its website. The 2011 plan organized TVA’s work into six resource areas but did not include all of TVA’s Natural Resource efforts. In the 2020 Natural Resource Plan, TVA proposes 10 focus areas that encompass all the Natural Resource functions.
 
TVA is hosting four open house meetings to obtain input, answer questions and receive comments. The sessions will be from 5–7:30 p.m. local time at the following locations:
 
  • July 25 at Pellissippi State Community College in the College Center Room, 10915 Hardin Valley Rd., Knoxville
  • July 26 at Chattanooga State Community College in Rooms 124-126, 4501 Amnicola Highway, Chattanooga
  • August 1 in the TVA Multi-Purpose Building, Room MPB 01202, 101 Reservation Road, Muscle Shoals, Alabama
  • August 2 at Paris Landing State Park in Conference Room A, 400 Lodge Road, Buchanan
  • August 6 – Webinar. Please register in advance of the webinar at www.tva.gov/nrp.
Written comments can be sent to Matthew Higdon, NEPA Compliance, Tennessee Valley Authority, 400 West Summit Hill Drive, WT 11D, Knoxville, TN 37902-1499. Comments also may be submitted on the project website at www.tva.gov/nrp or by email at NRP@tva.gov.
 
NOTE: Those with special needs who wish to attend any open house should contact TVA at least a week in advance at (865) 632-6113.
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Meet Your 2018–19 Section Chair

 

Jenny L. Howard serves as General Counsel for the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC). As General Counsel, Howard has recruited talented staff and developed a culture of excellent customer service among the 19 attorneys and 14 other professionals in her office who serve as trusted advisors to TDEC’s environmental and conservation programs. 
 
Before being named General Counsel, Howard served as Deputy General Counsel and Senior Counsel for Legislative Affairs for TDEC. Jenny was selected by TDEC to attend the 2014 Tennessee Government Executive Institute and has remained involved in that organization by serving as the Newsletter Chair, 2014 Class Representative, and a Steering Committee Member-at-Large. Jenny was a founding member of TDEC’s Talent Management Advisory Committee in 2013 and completed TDEC’s Green Leadership series. Howard has received recognition, such as being nominated and voted as a 2018 Nashville Business Journal Best of the Bar in Environmental Law and being nominated and named a Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce Emerging Leader finalist in the environmental category. 
 
Before joining TDEC, Howard served the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County as an Assistant Metropolitan Attorney where she represented Metro Water Services, the Metro Stormwater Management Committee, Metro Public Works, Metro Finance, the Metro Investment Committee, the Metropolitan Sports Authority, the Metropolitan Trustee, the Metro Tax Assessor, and a number of other departments and boards. Prior to that, she worked in private practice with Hall, Booth, Smith and Slover, a large law firm, representing clients in both litigation and transactions.
  
In addition to being a public servant for more than 11 years, she has also worked with many professional and charitable organizations. Before becoming President of the Tennessee Bar Association’s Environmental Section, she served the section as the Newsletter Chair and Vice President.  For the past 13 years, she has served as the 2005 Class Agent for Vanderbilt Law School’s Alumni Association and has served as a tnAchieves mentor.  She also teaches Sunday School as part of the Children’s Ministry at West End Community Church. She enjoys living in Nashville with her husband and two daughters.  
 
Please join us in welcoming your 2018–19 Environmental Law Section Chair.

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