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Archive for August, 2008

Musseling on the Clinch River

Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

We at the Network are desk jockeys. We spend the majority of our time behind a computer writing letters, researching policy, talking to members and people in the community facing threats to their clean water resources. Rarely do we get outside. Yesterday was an exception.

Craig Walker, an ecologist, invited the staff of TCWN to go musseling on the Clinch River. I have never seen a freshwater mussel up close and person. I must say, it was luv.

We started the day with a lecture complete with textbook and quiz.

After a drive to the Clinch River, we were treated to a great day of snorkling, mussel identification and riverside lunch. We snorkeled in about a foot of water, but we came to the river in 5mm wetsuits, fins, snorkel gear and weight belts. The guy at the dive shop told us the river would be freezing and we’d need weight belts go with the very large wetsuit so we could get down far enough to see the mussels. Most of that gear was left in the car.

The biodiversity was amazing. We saw hundreds of snails of different types, rare, endangered and threatened mussel species, darters galore. I had never appreciated mussels as I did slowly drifting down the river only to stop and hike back up and do it all over again.

Mussels have no eyes so their strategies for feeding and reproduction rely on sensory abilities I have no idea about. It’s marvelous really to watch them close and open to changes in their environment that we could not perceive. We saw a number of them with a foot hanging out. Darters and Mad Toms were curious. If we stayed still enough they would come close to check us out these beings with weird smooshed faces and long breathing tubes.

None wanted to leave, but our desks were calling us. Dana had to get to Enterprise Rental Car before it closed to get a car for today’s Water Quality Control Board meeting in Nashville. I had to check a million emails and phone messages from my vacation last week. Greg and Morgan had to prepare for one last day of freedom before classes start. Only Craig could leave the river knowing he’d be back for mussel surveys.

Rarity development and mining

Friday, August 8th, 2008

Boy, has there been a lot of traffic at the office here regarding the news yesterday about Rarity mining it’s golf coarse for coal without a permit. The Office of Surface Mining took offense and did a stop work order. TDEC mulls.

Do you remember the big stormwater enforcements of the spring? The ones against Rarity that were millions of dollars? Well, here is the enforcement order.  oakridgeland-company-rarite The millions of dollars are now just thousands of dollars and 80% are going to be forgiven on the promise of future compliance. I wish I could talk last week’s traffic cop into that? Can you imagine? “Officer, I only want to pay $30 of my $150 fine. Is that ok by you?” That’s what these guys do all the time. Read the order. Pay special attention to the Order and Assessment section XXII. Everything listed in 1, 3, and 5 were required by Ross’ permit. Ross agreed to do those things before he started work, and now he gets a benefit for non-compliance. If he does them now, he doesn’t have to pay the fine. VERY, VERY BAD…


Clean Water Act Enforcement Dropped! Send a Message to Senator Lamar Alexander: Pass the Clean Water Restoration Act NOW!

Wednesday, August 6th, 2008

A secret, internal EPA memo recently uncovered and released by two House committee chairmen revealed that EPA has dropped or de-prioritized over 500 Clean Water Act enforcement cases since July 2007 because of questions about whether the waters that the polluters discharged into is still covered by the Clean Water Act. Congress must act immediately to fix this nationwide problem.

It is critical that you TAKE ACTION NOW to contact Senator Lamar Alexander. Passage of this vital legislation will mean that the original intent of the Clean Water Act to protect all of our nation’s waters will be restored. This is our last big push before Congressional members embark on the fall campaign trail.

Click here to learn more about the Clean Water Authority Restoration Act.

Just last month, Chairman James Oberstar of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and Chairman Henry Waxman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform released an internal EPA document that indicates that the Supreme Court’s decision in Rapanos v. United States, combined with the agencies’ 2007 guidance, has resulted in “significant adverse impacts” to the clean water enforcement program. The internal memo was written by EPA Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Granta Y. Nakayama. In the memorandum, Nakayama states: “Data collected from the regions shows that a significant portion of the CWA enforcement docket has been adversely affected… The Rapanos decision and the resulting Guidance have created uncertainty about EPA’s ability to maintain an effective enforcement program with respect to other [Clean Water Act] obligations.”

This situation is completely unacceptable - Congress must act now to ensure the Clean Water Act is being enforced. We cannot afford to wait while our nation’s rivers, streams, and wetlands are being polluted and destroyed with impunity.

If you want a copy of the EPA memo and the letter to EPA sent by Chairmen Oberstar and Waxman seeking more information, you can go to http://transportation.house.gov/News/PRArticle.aspx?NewsID=700

ACTION NEEDED: The next step for Tennesseans is to get the bill voted successfully Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee with no weakening amendments inserted. Senator Lamar Alexander sits on this committee. Senator Alexander is currently not a co-sponsor of the bill.

We recommend calling Senator Alexander’s District Offices to advocate for the bill. A list of number for his district offices are here. Call him up and tell him that you want him to stand up for clean water by co-sponsoring this bill and passing it out of the EPW without weakening it. It’s a short conversation. The more calls the better. The only thing this bill does is remove the word “navigable” from the Clean Water Act thus restoring it to its original intent to protect ALL waters of the state. Opponents of the bill have been saying that this is an opportunity for the feds to regulate puddles and bird baths. Ridiculous!



TCWN joins 8 other state conservation groups in petition to EPA!

Wednesday, August 6th, 2008

Last week we signed on to a petition to the EPA requesting them to set and enforce numeric standards to limit nitrogen and phosphorus pollution in the Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi River Basin. EPA has disregarded its responsibility under the federal Clean Water Act to limit pollution in the Mississippi River, and it’s time they addressed this ongoing problem. The dead zone will continue to grow unless the EPA sets numeric standards for nitrogen and phosphorus pollution and requires all states in the river basin meet those standards.

In 1998 the EPA requested states to adopt specific limits on nitrogen and phosphorus pollution, even threatening to enact its own limits if states had not complied by 2003. It’s been 10 years, but nothing has happened. Every state along the Mississippi has thumbed its nose at that and other deadlines set by EPA, and the federal government has not stepped in to supply the urgently needed protections. As a result, inland water quality problems have multiplied and the dead zone has continued to grow. Now Tennessee ranks 7th out of the 31 states making up the MS River Basin as a contributor to the phosphorus and nitrogen delivered to the Gulf of Mexico.

This petition serves to notify the EPA we are fed up with their failure to protect the MS River and that it’s time to take some action!

Cumberland Trail State Park - Rock Harvesting Court Opinion

Friday, August 1st, 2008

Yesterday the Tennessee Court of Appeals ruled in our favor in the Cumberland Trail State Park rock “harvesting” case. In a strong, well-reasoned, and clear opinion, the Court stated that “general mineral reservations in a deed will not be construed so broadly as to include extraction methods that destroy the surface rights conveyed in the same deed. If a grantor wishes to retain the right to obtain minerals through destructive surface extraction, he must explicitly reserve that right within the deed; a general mineral reservation will not suffice.” This is the rule that we advanced in the amicus brief.

The Court went on to explain that the case-law, “as well as basic common sense and equity, compel the conclusion” that the mineral owner does not have the right to destroy the state’s surface rights by depriving the state of the reasonable use of its land by, for example, destroying the trees in the park. The opinion showed clear signs of our amicus brief’s influence.

The Court of Appeals remanded the case back to the trial court in Hamilton County for further proceedings consistent with the opinion. We will be working with our partner organizations through the appeal process.

This is a great outcome for our effort to keep the Cumberland Trail State Park free of rock harvesting and goes a long way towards establishing clear law on this issue in Tennessee for all land owners. Many thank got to the TCWN Board Chair Greg Buppert who co-wrote the Amicus brief with Sarah Franciso of Southern Environmental Law Center!

Read the attached document for the fine details.

State of Tennessee vs. Lahiere-Hill, LLC