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Tennessee Clean
Water Network

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Tennessee State Legislature: Destructive Water Bills

The 2009 Legislature has adjourned, but it’s not over yet! The session is two years long. The destructive water bills that didn't move this year may move next year.

The good news: Only two of the 14 bills passed! One of them was amended and we like it. So really, only one passed. We understand that the supporters of the wet weather conveyance bill (1.) were disappointed that is was amended and was not "the bill they wanted it to be". So really, only 1/2 of their bills passed! One half of 14 bills passed this session! We owe it all to your calls and letters and visits to the legislature. Keep up your good work and help us do ours. Please become a member or if you are already a member, please give again. Click the "Save our Rivers" button and help us keep Tennessee's rivers and streams protected from destructive legislation. Thank you!

Watch Senate and House Committee Meetings live at:

These Bills:

  • Don't do anything to clarify existing laws or processes – they change the law.
  • Blatantly strip protection away from our waters.
  • Grant permission to pollute our waters without justification.
  • These bills just give up on cleaning waters that are already polluted.

1. SB0632 (Southerland) / HB1615 (McCord) This bill started out incredibly dangerous, but has gone through an amendment process. This bill isn’t great, or even good, but we’re still working to make it better. The amended bill: 1) changes the definition of “wet weather conveyance”, 2) codifies existing rule language relevant to impacting wet weather conveyances and stipulates to greater requirements, 3) requires TDEC develop a hydrologic determination guidance, 4) requires TDEC develop minimum qualifications for those making said determinations, and 5) provides non-TDEC “experts” can make determinations.


2.SB1312 (Tracy) / HB1619 (McCord) – Requires all Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (Factory Farms) to have a permit to discharge waste. We opposed this bill as originally written. With the new amendments, we like it.


SB1331 (Yager) / HB1204 (McCord) – This bill also started out much worse than its current amended form. As amended it requires state water quality criterion for selenium match a proposed draft standard put out for scientific review by EPA in 2004. This criterion is highly ineffective in protecting our water quality and not even fully scientifically based.


SB0198 (Bunch) / HB0425 (Bell) Requires legislature to approve all rules and prevents the creation of emergency or public necessity rules.


SB0631 (Southerland) / HB1616 (McCord) As amended: Removes the burden of proving an economic and social need for projects when the project is publicly funded.

UPDATE: Placed in Senate General Subcommittee. Deferred in House Conservation Committee until 2010.

SB2154 (Finney) / HB2154 (McCord) (Nuisance bill) is scheduled in the House Civil Practice and Procedure Sub-committee on 4/7/2009. This bill would exempt permit holders from being held accountable when they damage neighboring properties.


NEVER MOVED, but will be back next year:

SB0633 (Southerland) / HB1617 (McCord) Creates definition of "limited resource waters" as those not attaining their designated uses due to natural occurrences or modifications and exempts them and wet weather conveyances from the definition of "waters."

  • Strips protection away from our waters and could destroy approximately 30,000 miles of streams- that's almost HALF the streams in Tennessee.
  • Gives up on protecting those impaired from previous activities.
  • Critical threat to smaller waterbodies.
  • UPDATE: HB1617 WAS ROLLED TO THE 2010 CALENDAR. SB633 is still assigned to General Sub.

    SB0634 (Southerland) / HB0973 (McCord) Prevents the prompting of enforcement inspections from anonymous communication and requires stream determination when a complaint is based upon discharging without a permit into an unnamed stream.

    • Takes protection away from whistleblowers.
    • Prevents the public from voicing their concerns and being protected at the same time.
    • Increases burden on the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, our state regulatory agency.

    SB1738 (Ramsey) / HB2009 (Mumpower) Provides those with permits allowing for a water withdrawal do not have to re-apply when there is a modification to their hours of withdrawal in their permit, but only request the modification form TDEC with an explanation of why the revision is necessary.

    • More hours for them, less water for us.
    • Provides private companies the opportunity to remove more water from our streams without public involvement. Often that withdrawal is a permanent water loss to our state.

    SB1112 (Overbey) / HB1622 (McCord) Requires air and water quality rules be consistent with and not exceed the requirements of federal statutes. Provides if there are no federal statutes the state can create those regulations if necessary to protect health, welfare, or the environment. Prevents any permit from having requirements which are not the direct basis of existing rule.

    • Prevents Tennessee from protecting its unique resources when the federal government doesn't.
    • States' rights: Why let the federal government determine what is best for our state?
    • Limits Tennesseans from making its own choices.

    SB1207 (Woodson) / HB1205 (McCord) –1) Requires WQCB to hear and decide on permit appeal hearings within 90 days of receipt of petition; 2) provides the WQCB can deem an appeal frivolous and award fees and expenses incurred as a result of the appeal to the applicant; 3) states if a declaratory order is not heard by the WQCB within 90 days it is a refusal to hear the case.

    • Denies the opportunity for hearings to be held in front of the WQCB if delayed.
    • Bias towards permit applicants as the only partly eligible for incurring costs.
    • Worded to assume applicant is not also appellant.

    SB1335 (24-hour notice bill) is scheduled in Senate Environment Committee on 4/7/2009.

    Download fact sheets:

    Our Rights Are Not Wrong

    Who's In Charge, Anyway?

    24-Hour Notice before Inspections (SB1335/HB0941 )

    Nuisance Bill (SB2154/HB2154)