Tag Archives: Gloria Johnson

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.

Sunday Brunch – #HashtagEdition

Coming to a State Capitol Near You!

Coming to a State Capitol Near You!

Some big news Saturday…

The White House announced that President Barack Obama would be making a stop in Nashville, Thursday, January 30th.

Details of the visit haven’t been released just yet, but initial reports say he’ll be in the state to talk about jobs…an important topic in a state that has an unemployment rate higher than the national average (81.% vs. 7.3%) and a poverty rate that is expanding instead of contracting (17.3% up from 13.5% in 2010).

The news was met with some propagandizing from Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), who apparently is unaware that the unemployment rate in her district is higher than the national average (9% vs 7.3%) and so is poverty (16.3% vs. 14.9%)…both of which have only been expanding since she was elected in 2002. It says something about a politician when they trumpet their state’s “Thriving Economy” yet ignore the basic facts about the area they represent. #sadtrombone

Even without the President’s announced visit, this week had some big events coming…here’s a list of things that are coming up…and some stuff you may have missed during your weekend merriment:

In the News

The Tennessee Scenic Vistas Protection Act is back thanks to State Rep. Gloria Johnson.
Apparently Mike Huckabee likes flip-flops more than regular shoes. Who knew?
Those big education test score gains may have been seriously oversold.
Some consultants say Memphis should adopt a “pay-as-you-throw” sanitation system…and all this happens as two high ranking officials in the city resigned…one of which was in charge of curbside garbage pickup.
Gary Odom proposes a cigarette tax to fund TennCare expansion (as a smoker, I’m cool with this).
The government closest to the people is an inconvenience for state legislators/gun advocates.
Gov. Haslam ain’t buying Kelsey’s voucher bill.
Democrat Lenda Sherrell is running against Scott DesJarlais in the TN-04 race.
Unions in Tennessee saw major growth in membership over the past year.

Mark your calendar

Monday – Tennesseans ReclaimingEducational Excellence (TREE) is hosting an event highlighting misguided education reforms, featuring Elaine Weiss, National Coordinator, Broader, Bolder Approach to Education.
Tuesday – At 9pm (ET) the President will deliver his State of the Union address.

And of course, the Tennessee General Assembly will continue its assault on the state Tuesday.

Enjoy what’s left of your Sunday…STP will be back in full effect Monday morning!