Right to Know, Right to be Heard

The Right to Know, Right to be Heard campaign seeks to empower citizens and third parties of Tennessee toward the long-term protection of our state’s waters through comprehensive implementation and enforcement of the Clean Water Act.

Under the Clean Water Act, all point source discharges of pollution require a permit. This basic principle is the foundation of water pollution prevention and control in the United States. The Clean Water Act’s primary point source control program is the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). The EPA has delegated primary NPDES program implementation to the State of Tennessee, giving the Department of Environment and Conservation the responsibility of issuing and enforcing water pollution permits statewide. Citizen involvement is fundamental to effective implementation of the program. Unfortunately, Tennessee citizens and third parties of often denied these rights by state agencies, violating the provisions set forth in federal law.

This campaign seeks to address these inadequacies and reform critical public participation procedures at the state level.

Key Issues

Permit Appeals – The right to challenge permitting decisions is fundamental to the NPDES process. The Clean Water Act gives third parties the right to appeal NPDES permits, specifying that these rights should be equal to those given to permit applicants. The Tennessee Water Quality Control Act violates these provisions by only allowing permit applicants to appeal permits. TCWN seeks to remedy this illegal provision in state law and give citizens a much-needed voice in the future protection of our state’s waters.

Enforcement – Opportunities for citizen enforcement actions in Tennessee are often limited by state agencies, with affected citizens being denied access to the courts and meaningful opportunity to participate at significant stages of the administrative decision-making process. A recent federal court decision determined that enforcement provisions of the Tennessee Water Quality Control Act and related state statutes are not comparable to those of the federal Clean Water Act providing for citizen enforcement actions. TCWN seeks to remedy these illegal provisions in state law and provide citizens and third parties meaningful opportunities to participate in enforcement proceedings, both by commencing enforcement actions and intervening in ongoing State enforcement actions.

Other public participation issues – The State of Tennessee is consistently deficient in its attempts to notify the public of important permitting and enforcement actions. Methods used to notify the public of permit determinations, public hearings, and enforcement decisions are not consistent with guidelines set forth in state and federal laws and regulations. TCWN seeks to reform the State’s process for public notification and to advocate for methods that go beyond the minimum requirements to effectively reach those persons who are potentially affected by these actions.

The Right to Know campaign addresses priorities 1 through 3 in our Clean Water Policy program.

Tennessee Clean Water Network | 706 Walnut St. | Knoxville, TN 37902 | Office: 865-522-7007 | Fax: 865-329-2422

[email protected]
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