Rutherford Electric Membership Corporation filed a condemnation petition in January that would allow the utility to build power lines through Box Creek Wilderness, a 5,100-acre tract of preserved forest east of Asheville, N.C. REMC says the utility needs the line to supply power to members in McDowell County and has almost reached capacity with current power lines. The wilderness is owned by Epic Games founder Tim Sweeney, who said in a press release that he’s “going to do everything [he] can to protect this beautiful, unique ecosystem from the proposed devastation.” The N.C. Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources recently designated Box Creek as the 24th most significant natural heritage area in the state. Sweeney had until the end of March to respond to REMC’s petition.
A new Colorado State University study of air quality in national parks shows a major reduction in particle pollution in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. “In the Eastern United States, most of our air pollution comes from power plants and vehicle emissions. Nitrates in the air and sulfates are a lot of what we see,” Molly Schroer, park spokesperson, said in an interview with WBIR in Knoxville, Tenn. “It’s getting better. That is the trend that we are seeing in our data as far as the air.”
Gallup and Healthways recently released their annual Well-Being Index for 2012 and, as in years past, Appalachia’s health and happiness ranked low. West Virginia (50th) and Kentucky (49th) brought up the rear, while Tennessee slid down a few spots over the last year to 47. The Well-Being Index compiles survey results from all over the nation on subjects from emotional and physical health to food access and healthcare.
In April, Dominion Resources Inc., a Virginia-based electric utility, agreed to pay $13.2 million to settle federal air pollution violations for three out-of-state coal plants. While the company denies the allegations that it violated the Clean Air Act, it settled rather than engage in a drawn-out and expensive legal fight. The company’s shareholders will bear the cost of the settlement, said company spokesperson Dan Genest.
The Southern Environmental Law Center recently named Goforth Creek Canyon as one of its “Top 10 Endangered Places in the Southeast for 2013.” The wild resource is threatened by the proposed Corridor K, a highway that would connect Chattanooga and Asheville. The Tennessee Department of Transportation said that different alternatives for the highway are being reviewed, and that studies are ongoing to help find the best solution. TDOT will release its draft environmental impact statement about the project late this summer.
Georgia legislators in March passed a resolution authorizing the state’s attorney general to sue the state of Tennessee if it refuses to voluntarily give up a 1.5 square-mile parcel of land that they say is rightfully theirs. The land would grant Georgia access to the Nickajack Reservoir, which is fed by the Tennessee River. The move comes as rapidly expanding metropolitan Atlanta struggles to find a stable water supply after suffering severe droughts in recent years.