Tag Archives: environjment

Company to pay $50.8M to clean up Ocoee River contamination

News release from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
ATLANTA — The Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced that OXY USA Inc., a subsidiary of Occidental Petroleum Company, has agreed to clean up contaminated water and sediments in the Ocoee River and one of its watersheds at the Copper Basin Mining District Superfund Site in Polk County, Tennessee.

The settlement requires the company to spend an estimated $40 million to maintain and operate a water treatment system, prevent access by the public to contaminated water, and monitor contamination in the Ocoee River.

In addition, OXY USA Inc. will reimburse EPA approximately $10.8 million toward costs incurred in its past cleanup actions at the site. The company will also reimburse EPA and the State of Tennessee for costs incurred by those agencies in overseeing the work required by the settlement.

“This settlement is the product of excellent cooperation between private parties, and the state and federal government to find a long term solution to cleaning up the contamination at the Copper Basin site,” said Assistant Attorney General John Cruden of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “This agreement will yield lasting benefits for water quality in this Ocoee River watershed.”
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Heeding legislator advice, AG joins lawsuit against EPA

(Note: In separate letters, a group of 63 state legislators and a coalition of business organizations had urged the AG to join the lawsuit. Previous posts HERE and HERE.)

News release from Tennessee Attorney General’s Office:
Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III today announced the state of Tennessee has joined the states of Ohio and Michigan in a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The lawsuit asks the court to strike down a new rule, known as the “waters of the United States” rule, that unlawfully expands the federal government’s regulatory authority over local bodies of water, lands, and farms.

Under the Clean Water Act, Congress established federal regulatory control over “navigable waters,” defined by that statute as “waters of the United States, including the territorial seas.” However, the rules initiated by the U.S. Corps and EPA no longer limit their authority to navigable waters and adjoining waters or wetlands. Instead, federal authority would include nearly every conceivable water tributary in the country including those that in no way constitute navigable, potentially navigable, or interstate waters – even in various instances reaching land that is typically dry.

“This rule would allow the federal government to claim authority over areas clearly left to the supervision and care of the states,” said Attorney General Slatery. “There is little doubt that this rule would negatively impact the citizens of Tennessee, subjecting homeowners, farmers, and businesses to costly regulations that in many cases lack basic common sense.”

This overly-broad definition of “waters of the United States” could be used by the federal government to penalize landowners improperly. To comply with regulations, property owners would be required to obtain costly permits not necessary under the current structure.

The states are asking the court to vacate the rule, enjoin the defendants from seeking to claim jurisdiction under the rule, and remand the matter so the agencies can propose new rules which are consistent with the U.S. Constitution and the Clean Water Act.

The case is filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio.

Environmentalist group says TDEC anti-pollution efforts ‘clearly insufficient’

By Travis Loller, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — State regulators issued 77 percent fewer enforcement orders against water polluters in 2014 than they did in 2008, according to the nonprofit Tennessee Clean Water Network.

The network has been tracking actions the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation takes against polluters since 2007, when the agency issued 219 enforcement orders. In 2008, that number rose to 231. But enforcement orders plummeted beginning in 2009, reaching just 53 in 2012; 50 in 2013; and 53 again last year, according to a Tennessee Clean Water Network report released Wednesday.

Four of those 53 orders were issued in direct response to actions by the Clean Water Network, either formal complaints or threatened lawsuits, according to the report.

More than a quarter of enforcement orders in both 2013 and 2014 were not for pollution but for paperwork problems, such as failing to submit a complete permit application, according to the report.

The permits issued by the state agency allow businesses and individuals to pollute Tennessee waterways within certain limits. There are more than 17,000 active water permits statewide. More than half of those are for construction sites.

It is not clear why the number of enforcement orders has been going down. The numbers already were declining when Gov. Bill Haslam took office in 2011, but they dropped steeply in 2012 and have stayed low.

In an emailed statement, spokeswoman Kelly Brockman said the agency works to achieve compliance with the law through various means including “inspections; clear communications; and outreach, where possible and appropriate.”
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An environmental downside to West Tennessee megasite development

The state’s $150 million effort to attract an auto plant to West Tennessee is drawing questions from environmentalists, who fear the effort could harm one of the Southeast’s least spoiled rivers, reports Chas Sisk.

Tennessee and local officials support a plan to dump as much as a billion gallons of wastewater a year — laced perhaps with heavy metals such as lead and zinc — into the Hatchie River, right on the edge of a national wildlife refuge.

Despite broad assurances from elected officials and others that the risk to the river has been minimized, the proposal has drawn scrutiny from federal and state wildlife officials, as well as The Nature Conservancy, the national nonprofit that specializes in protecting endangered habitats.

They note that the scenic, slow-moving river is the only feeder of the Lower Mississippi to run along the same banks Chickasaw Indians saw when they gave the Hatchie its name. The river’s muddy waters still teem with species of catfish, crayfish and freshwater mussels — at least one of them endangered.

The waste would come from the Memphis Regional Megasite, a 3,840-acre industrial park under construction next to Interstate 40 between Jackson and Memphis. Local and state officials believe this site could eventually attract an American or international automaker looking to expand in the South, much as Volkswagen chose to build on a similar site outside Chattanooga six years ago.

Critics See ‘Wholesale Auction’ of Stream Quality Underway

A decade-old, multi-million dollar program for restoring degraded Tennessee streams has come under attack in the state Legislature even as Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration moves to give it new legal status.
Critics of the Tennessee Stream Mitigation Program, which is overseen by a non-profit foundation, characterized it as a “wholesale auction” of the state’s waterways to developers who can pay a fee for their pollution while leaving devastated downstream landowners in a lurch.
Testimony in a hearing before the House Conservation committee also raised questions about whether the non-profit Tennessee Wildlife Resources Foundation faces appropriate financial accountability under the present setup, which was put in place by a 2002 “memorandum of understanding” between state and federal agencies.

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