Tag Archives: EPA

It’s Our Rivers And Mountaintops, Not Corporations


There is a story coming out of North Carolina about Riverkeepers who have been watching a coal ash spill on Cape Fear River. (No, really.)

Here’s a little piece of history for you: regarding how Ned McWherter and NC got into a spat back in 1988.

The controversy centered around the Champion Paper Mill in Canton, NC located ten miles upstream from the Tennessee state line in Cocke County. For over 80 years, the paper mill had discharged industrial waste into the river, destroying wildlife habitat and recreational areas downstream. Residents of Newport, TN and Hartford, TN complained about the negative economic and health consequences of the pollution, including higher cancer rates in areas along the Pigeon River.

In the late 80’s, opposition to the Champion Paper Mill in Tennessee reached a political boiling point, with newspapers and elected officials calling on Governor McWherter to deny the renewal of a water quality variance needed by the paper mill to continue operations. During the debate, Champion threatened to close the mill and layoff over 2,000 workers, which sparked heated debate across state lines.

Early one September morning, Governor McWherter, legislative aide Billy Stair and an agent from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency loaded up in a canoe just north of the paper mill where the waters were vibrant and pristine. As they floated past the Champion operation, the clear headwaters turned into a black discharge that bubbled around their canoe. Just past the paper mill, a local sheriff stopped the group and informed them they were trespassing on “Champion’s River.” The sheriff did not realize he had stopped the Governor of Tennessee, but he did solidify Gov. McWherter’s decision to deny the variance request. On Christmas Eve of 1988, Gov. McWherter called on his Deputy Governor Harlan Matthews to deliver the news of the variance refusal to North Carolina Governor Jim Martin. Governor McWherter’s refusal of the variance request was met with much praise in Tennessee and solidified his legacy as a steward of Tennessee’s natural resources.

I realize that link is a presser but the altercation has been reported not only in Ned’s book but in Dark Waters.

We all need water and when we blow off the tops of mountains, they don’t grow back, campers. And the bottom line is that last week, a bill that would help Tennessee called the Scenic Vistas Protection Act, sponsored by Rep. Gloria Johnson and Sen. Lowe Finney had a few setbacks. I’ll let Johnson explain:

Last week, big corporate special interests unfortunately won another delay of the “Scenic Vistas Act.” This measure would protect our mountains — and thousands of tourism jobs — from the destructive practice of mountaintop removal. This legislation is supported by Republicans and Democrats, and according to polling, a vast majority of Tennesseans agree we should save our mountaintops, yet the supermajority refuses to hear our voices

Ned threw an awkward punch at NC, documented in the biography of his life in office by Billy Stair:

When the Environmental Protection Agency ordered Champion to upgrade the plant to meet Tennessee’s water quality standards, the company threatened to close the plant and lay off all 2,000 workers. East Tennessee residents held demonstrations, and asked that Governor McWherter not renew the plant’s water quality variance. Legislators from both states traded barbs, cars with Tennessee license plates were vandalized in North Carolina, and McWherter’s office was flooded with calls from angry North Carolina residents.[7] Following an unscheduled trip to Canton, where he was confronted by a sheriff who told him he was “trespassing on Champion’s River,” McWherter announced on Christmas Day, 1988, that would not renew the plant’s water quality variance.

The environment is important, folks. And having people actively watch corporate entities who are damned determined to milk our planet leaving nothing behind should be celebrated, not vilified.

It’s up to us to make our leaders accountable but to also support our elected officials fight the good fight when they are trying to take care of our state. Sadly, their biggest enemy now is that these issues aren’t always hitting the media, and the biggest enemy is not getting a bill out of committee for discussion.

Morning Coffee – Surrender? No Surrender? Edition

This may be the end of MCS as we know it, and I'm fine with that.

In this season of giving, I’ve decided that a current events version of “The Night Before Christmas” is in order. To that end, I offer the following…

Twas the week before Christmas and all through the County,
Leaders in the east were assessing their bounty,
The Legislature won by the right wing with care,
In hopes that a Special School District would be there.

The schoolchildren enjoying their Christmas break,
Awaiting decisions that deciders will make,
And I at my computer trying hard to remember,
All the information concerning surrender.

Out in the City there had been such a clatter,
Somehow Mr. Pickler didn’t see what was the matter,
He thought SSD was a forgone conclusion,
And didn’t consider the current resolution.

Ambition became his great miscalculation,
The consequence of which is consolidation,
When what to his wondering eyes did appear,
But the MCS board, whose votes were all clear.

The resolution’s sponsor, Martavius Jones,
Brought the specter of merger which chilled Pickler’s bones.
More rapid than eagles, the vote count it came,
And they voted aloud as they called them by name.

The ayes had Hart, Webb, Gatewood and Jones,
Kenneth Whalum and Williams comprised all the noes,
There were still some votes, whose fate were in question,
Mallott, and Warren and Patrice Robinson.

The vote was all set, it was on the agenda,
But nobody knew if they would approve surrender,
So up to the boardroom the Commissioner they flew,
Voting the fate of the district, and Kriner Cash too.

Ok, that’s all I can write right now. We’ll find out how it all turns out this evening and maybe I’ll be able to finish this epic.

Now, on to the Coffee!

The Bredesen legacy parade continues on the menu today, Blame storming.

It’s been two years since the Coal Ash Spill in Kingston, TN and the EPA rules are still uncertain, as is the result of the numerous lawsuits that begin next year

Over the weekend the US Senate voted to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. One former Marine from the Mid-South plans to re-enlist. Also check out this post from Grand Divisions regarding the votes of Tennessee’s Senators and the state of equality in Tennessee. Good stuff.

Spygate: Memphis Police Department Edition.

As I mentioned in the opening, the vote to surrender the charter happens tonight at 5:30. David Waters at the Commercial Appeal says we need to focus on helping our students by helping our teachers. I couldn’t agree more. Also, Smart City Memphis is looking at achievement gaps.

Over the weekend there were several blog posts and Op-Eds about the issue. Here’s a short rundown:

MCS Board Member Jeff Warren offers Let’s get MAD about our schools face-off.
Over at vibinc I talked about the trust issue, as well as some of the other issues ultimately asking the board to surrender.
Steffens also had a similar, though decidedly more pointed argument.

There are several others. As I re-find them I’ll update the post.

Regardless of your faith, Ricky Gervais has A Holiday Message for you.

And finally, Memphis says goodbye to a journalistic icon. Over the weekend WREG’s Norm Brewer lost his battle with cancer. Thoughts and Prayers go out to the family.

Have a good day out there. Do something unexpectedly nice for someone if you have the chance. It’ll make you feel good.


It’s been 19 months since the TVA coal waste spilled in Harriman. I guess it’s a look at comparing disasters. None of them are good, but it’s food for thought about how these two events were man-made. The floods came from the skies. The BP and TVA disasters have fingerprints from lobbying decisions that honestly didn’t think things through regarding the environment.

Once again, from Grantham:

It’s being called the worst man made disaster in American history, but whoever is calling it that has failed to look back only two years ago to December 2008. That’s when over a billion gallons of toxic coal waste spilled across 3,000 acres of land and rivers in Kingston, TN. It was 5.4 million cubic yards. One cubic yard equal 201 gallons.

If my math is right, that makes the coal industry’s 2008 toxic spill almost 20 times larger than BP’s 2010 Gulf oil spill.

Those coal and oil industry execs really have a thing for putting a price on things they can never replace, don’t they?

The sound you hear is my palm slapping into my face repeatedly. The last line from Grantham is the kicker.

And from the CleanEnergy Footprints blog:

So, even with this new movement from EPA, we’re still waiting for them to do what’s right.  It is now 19 months after TVA’s Kingston coal ash spill, and almost two years since EPA Administrator, Lisa Jackson, promised to develop regulations for this toxic substance.  Increasing evidence continues to surface revealing the devastating effects that current storage and disposal practices are having on our environment, so we cannot let EPA do just anything.  We need EPA to do the right thing!

Image Credit

Morning Coffee – Throw the Bums Out Edition

Arlen Specter via his Senate Website

Yesterday morning I wrote about the elections that happened yesterday.. This morning it’s clear: right now American voters just don’t like incumbents or establishment candidates, period. Especially on the GOP side.

For proof we’ll go back to the same two neighboring states we did yesterday, Kentucky and Arkansas, and this time add in Pennsylvania for some flavor.

FIrst Kentucky, where the Republican establishment may want an extra dose of that state’s abbreviation to make what happened to them not hurt so much.

Trey Grayson, the State’s Secretary of State and GOP standard-bearer got his butt handed to him by Rand Paul, son of Ron Paul, 58% to 35%. Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell stuck by Grayson until the very end, then made sure to get behind Paul for the general election. That’s leadership for ya!

Over in Pennsylvania, 5 term former Republican turned Democratic Senator Arlen Specter lost pretty badly to Representative Joe Sestak in the Democratic Primary. This is, perhaps less surprising than the Paul win in Kentucky due to the party switchery that Specter openly admitted he did to “remain in office” in the face of a tough primary battle from his right. Still, Specter had 30+ years of name recognition in the state, something that’s hard to beat no matter how you slice it.

Finally, our neighbor to the west, Arkansas had probably the dirtiest campaign ever run in the state, so dirty in fact that political curmudgeon John Brummett actually called one candidate’s campaign “cynically dishonest”.


Looks like Arkansans get another month of cynical dishonesty as the race between Senator Lincoln and Lt. Gov. Halter goes to a runoff set for June 8th.

In looking at the county by county results there’s something interesting to me. Halter, the challenger, lost almost all of the largest counties by several points, but did well in rural counties. Max Brantley thinks there were some GOP shenanigans in the open primary. I guess we’ll see in a month.

Last month I called this election cycle a “come to Jesus” moment for Tennessee Democrats. I think it’s become that for a lot wider audience, but we’ll see over the coming months. In any case, the first big primary contests have happened in the nation, guess what, the neither the incumbents, nor the establishment candidates won. Challengers take note.

On to the coffee!

There were primary elections in Davidson County too. The City paper has the vote totals.

Note to politicians. Don’t lie about serving in the military, or where you served in the military. What a maroon!

This is funny! I wonder if she also secretly plays the lottery, or recognizes people in liquor stores.

Really? We’re one of the largest importers of coal? #DANG!

Alrighty, have a good day out there