The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation demoted the official who told a group of Mount Pleasant residents that unfounded complaints about water quality could be considered terrorism, reports The Tennessean. Sherwin Smith, who was deputy director of TDEC’s Division of Water Resources, was demoted effective June 26, the agency said Tuesday. He returns to his prior position with the state’s Revolving Fund Program, which helps fund water projects in the state with low-interest loans.
“This is a lower-ranking position,” said Meg Lockhart, spokeswoman for TDEC. “It is my understanding the salary will be less than what he would be making had he not been removed from that position.”
(Previous post HERE)
A Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation deputy director warned a group of Maury County residents that unfounded complaints about water quality could be considered an “act of terrorism,” reports The Tennessean. “We take water quality very seriously. Very, very seriously,” said Sherwin Smith, deputy director of TDEC’s Division of Water Resources, according to audio recorded by attendees.
“But you need to make sure that when you make water quality complaints you have a basis, because federally, if there’s no water quality issues, that can be considered under Homeland Security an act of terrorism.”
“Can you say that again, please?” an audience member can be heard asking on the audio. Smith went on in the recording to repeat the claim almost verbatim.
The audio was recorded May 29 by Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment, a Smyrna-based civic action group that had been working with Maury County residents to tackle water quality complaints in Mount Pleasant.
Residents there have complained to the state for months, saying some children had become ill drinking the water. The meeting was organized by State Rep. Sheila Butt, R-Columbia, and attended by residents, TDEC and local officials.
UPDATE: TDEC says the comment was “inappropriate.”
— Note: News release from enviornmental groups is below.
Rejecting appeals by state officials, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has ruled that three Memphis-area counties, as well as three others in East Tennessee, violate federal air-quality standards for ozone pollution, reports the Commercial Appeal. The decision, issued late Tuesday, means that Shelby, Crittenden (in Arkansas) and part of DeSoto county (in Mississipp) will remain classified as “non-attainment” for ozone standards – a designation that officials say makes it more difficult to attract industry. Anderson, Blount and Knox counties also retain the designation.
Tennessee and Mississippi had filed petitions appealing EPA’s initial decision earlier this year classifying the counties as non-attainment. The appeals cited data showing improvement in local air quality, particularly during a three-year period ending in 2011 during which all Shelby County air monitors met federal ozone standards.
State and local officials had sought to escape the non-attainment classification because of its potentially chilling effect on economic development. New or expanding industries generally are held to stricter pollution-control requirements in non-attainment areas.
And this from the AP:
Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation commissioner Bob Martineau said Wednesday that the federal agency chose the “most burdensome of several options” in dealing with air pollution in the counties.
“It’s important to note that while EPA’s decision will have long-term negative economic impacts for Tennessee, this decision does nothing to improve air quality,” Martineau said.
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.
Tennessee teachers earned one of the highest overall grades in the nation on the National Council on Teacher Quality’s 2011 State Teacher Policy Yearbook, reports the Memphis Business Journal. Tennessee earned a B- and was one of only four states to receive a B grade. Tennessee overall grade rose from a C- in 2009, according to the biannual report.
The Yearbook is compiled by the National Council on Teacher Quality and has tracked teacher policies for the last five years. The report measures progress against a set of 36 policy goals focused on helping states put in place a comprehensive framework in support of preparing, retaining and rewarding effective teachers.
Tennessee improved on three of the five basic areas: from a C to a C+ in expanding the teaching pool; from a C to a B in identifying effective teachers; and from an F to a C in exiting ineffective teachers. The other three states with overall B grades were Florida, Rhode Island and Oklahoma.