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Tennessee Clean
Water Network

123A S. Gay St.
Knoxville, TN 37902

Office: 865-522-7007
Fax: 865-329-2422

TN Clean Water Act of 2007

Sponsors: Senator Woodson, Senator Ketron and Representative Buck

TCWN drafted the TN Clean Water Act of 2007 after organizing 11 communities across the state and answering hundreds of calls from Tennesseans concerned about water quality. Also, in our work with various state agencies and environmental organizations, we have recognized a common thread to the water pollution problems in Tennessee. This Act empowers the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) to protect our waters and funds its success by:

Strengthening TDEC to be compliant with state and federal regulations
Rewarding the regulated community that uses good practices
Utilizing public participation to increase TDEC's ability to protect our waters
Funding monitoring and enforcement actions with fines and fees from those who pollute
Protecting and measurably improving our water resources and quality of life

The TN Clean Water Act of 2007 supports Attorney General Coopers new plan to aggressively crackdown on polluters in Tennessee (polluter crackdown). Attorney General Cooper said that he will focus on the worst cases of noncompliance with environmental laws, skip the administrative process, and go straight to court. 

The TN Clean Water Act of 2007 supports the attorney general's program by providing a method to track and record offenses so his office can more efficiently identify repeat offenders.

Prompt and efficient processing of permits for the regulated community is delayed when TDEC diverts significant resources to repeatedly enforce against permit holders with a history of noncompliance. This punishes responsible industrials by delaying good projects in favor of monitoring noncompliant projects.

The TN Clean Water Act of 2007 empowers TDEC to protect our water and funds TDEC's success.

Priority Permitting: Rewarding the regulated community that consistently protects our resources, priority permits require only permit processing fees and self-monitoring. Repeat offenders will be ineligible for priority permits, and be required to get individual probationary permits that include maintenance fees for increased monitoring by the department. Chronic violators will be considered bad actors ineligible for new permits.

Mandatory Enforcement: To expend the least amount of resources and be fair, enforcement needs to be swift and consistent. TDEC often sends Notices of Violation to polluters with required corrections, but do not follow up with enforcement if that order is ignored. Now, after a chance to fix the problem, TDEC must enforce.

Mandatory Fines: The Water Quality Control Act currently allows TDEC to fine violators up to $10,000 per violation per day. However, TDEC rarely assesses fines over $20,000 even when there are multiple violations over months or years. Fines will start at 50% of the maximim for the particular violation.

Public Access: The waters of the state are held in public trust, and the public has a right to be involved in all regulation and enforcement of the law. Public actions starts with proper notice of TDEC's activities including publication of notices of violation in their community and compromises TDEC will offer the violator.

Stop Work Order: TDEC is responsible for all activities that affect the waters of the state, and needs parallel authority to stop activities that are noncompliant or polluting. Currently, most activities and pollution are allowed to continue until the legal appeals process runs its course.

Helping Tennesseans Protect our Waters

These goals are modest in comparison with the ambitious goals and powerful enforcement tools provided in the Clean Water Act. This legislation increases the resources available to TDEC without burdening the public and streamlines the process to make enforcement certain, swift and self-sustaining. Through a fair and holistic approach, the process will require enforcement before significant environmental harm occurs, will preserve the waters of the state, and will serve as deterrence to future violations.

The TN Clean Water Act of 2007 has been introduced into the Tennessee Legislature as SB0633 and HB1803. View the full text of the bill here. Related bills, smaller divisions of the bill were also introduced. To view them, click here or on the "Related Bills" link in the right margin.

For a copy of the TN Clean Water Act 2007 Fact Sheet, click here.