Posts Tagged ‘Tennessee’

Announcing the Energy Savings for Appalachia webinar series

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016 - posted by Amber Moodie-Dyer

Three-part series highlights energy efficiency on-bill Financing as a unique opportunity for our region

If you happened to miss our first energy efficiency on-bill financing webinar on May 11, don’t despair. You can watch a recording of the webinar, which is the first in a series describing the benefits of on-bill financing entitled “Leveraging Energy Savings: On-bill Financing as an Economic Opportunity in the Southeast.”

At this point you may be wondering, what is on-bill financing and why might I want to watch a webinar about it? Do you care about saving money on your electric bills, minimizing energy waste, helping the environment and your local economy? Energy efficiency on-bill financing can address all of these concerns. With on-bill financing, people can make energy efficiency improvements to their home without having to foot the bill upfront. Instead, residents pay for the improvements over time through a monthly charge on their electric bill. With a well-designed program, many residents will have lower bills even while paying back the project cost because of the energy savings they’re achieving.

Curious? Watch the webinar below to learn more!

You can watch the one-hour webinar, or simply review the slides here. In the video above you’ll hear Appalachian Voices Energy Policy Director Rory McIlmoil discuss the effects of energy waste in the Southeast and Appalachian region, how energy efficiency programs can benefit communities by saving people money and creating jobs, the best practice Pay-As-You-Save® model of on-bill financing for weatherization improvements, sources of capital for on-bill financing programs, case studies of successful on-bill finance programs and ways you can engage in our campaign.

Keep a look out for an announcement about the second webinar in the series next month that will delve into what we’re learning about on-bill financing from a number of electric cooperatives throughout the country who offer this program (including some in our own region and state). Visit the Energy Savings for Appalachia homepage to learn more about campaign, and while you’re there, be sure to go to our Energy Savings Action Center to submit a letter to your utility provider a letter asking them to offer on-bill financing.

Stay informed by subscribing to the Front Porch Blog.

Sleeping giants: TVA and Georgia Power stuck in second gear on energy efficiency

Wednesday, March 30th, 2016 - posted by guestbloggers

Editors’ Note: This piece, by Taylor Allred, is the third entry in a blog series entitled Energy Savings in the Southeast and featured on the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy’s footprints blog. The series will cover the performance of Southeastern utilities’ energy efficiency programs, and highlight how the region can achieve more money-saving and carbon-reducing energy savings. Future posts in this series can be found here.

While even the region’s top achievers have room for improvement, some of the largest utilities in the Southeast are seriously falling behind on energy efficiency. In particular, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and Georgia Power are two enormously capable utilities that appear to be stuck in second gear.

Huge Potential, Anemic Growth

TVA

Energy-Savings-Chart-Feb-20162

The nation’s largest public power provider, TVA provides generation and transmission to 154 electric cooperatives and municipal utilities serving more than 9 million people across seven states. In addition, TVA provides power to 59 directly served industrial customers.

TVA started ramping up its energy savings in 2011, following a relatively favorable outcome for energy efficiency in its 2011 integrated resource plan (IRP). Apart from the IRP, the federal utility also signed a 2011 EPA Consent Decree settlement over coal-plant emissions violations that, among other things, called for TVA to spend at least $240 million on energy efficiency. Following up on the IRP, the TVA Board challenged its staff to achieve savings equivalent to the output of a new nuclear plant, and TVA did just that with its EnergyRight Solutions programs, reporting 1,126 MW in avoided capacity additions from fiscal year 2008 through fiscal year 2014.

Not surprisingly, the cost of TVA’s energy savings – about $0.02 per kWh – was far lower than the $0.10 to $0.14 per kWh cost of new nuclear energy reported by Lazard. However, the ultra-low cost energy savings also indicate that they could be doing a lot more. TVA’s net savings rate of 0.25% ranks in the bottom half of major Southeastern utilities.

Georgia Power

Georgia Power is the largest subsidiary of Southern Company, one of the largest power providers in the country. As the only investor-owned electric utility in Georgia, the company serves more than 2.4 million customers, including the Atlanta metro area.

While it has achieved higher savings than TVA, Georgia Power has been on a slow growth trajectory over the past few years, and just under half of its 0.43% 2014 savings came from prescriptive commercial incentives, such as fluorescent lighting retrofits. Commercial lighting is a fairly easy way for utilities to achieve a base level of energy savings at an extremely low cost, but it is critical to also invest fully in the many other opportunities for cost-effective savings.

Non-Residential Savings

Both TVA and Georgia Power derive about three-quarters of their energy savings from non-residential customers, but both utilities are still far from fully capturing their huge non-residential savings potential – for completely opposite reasons having to do with their industrial energy efficiency programs.

On the one hand, Georgia Power has no energy efficiency programs for large industrial customers – industrial interest groups maintain an active stance against developing programs tailored to their members’ needs. But just to the north, TVA’s industrial program is limited not by opposition from industrial interest groups, but by TVA’s budget. Industrial customer interest in the program is so high that TVA has suspended new applications for months at a time when funds have run out. Thankfully, TVA’s programs are currently all funded and operating.

The Role of Resource Planning

One of the biggest opportunities to increase energy savings is in the treatment of energy efficiency in integrated resource planning. Utilities typically just pick a modest number as an energy efficiency target, and then subtract that figure from their demand forecasts prior to modeling generation resources based on costs.

The problem with that approach is that energy efficiency is actually the least-cost resource available (and clean!), so it’s wasteful not to maximize cost-effective energy efficiency. A better approach is to model energy efficiency as an energy resource on equal footing with generation resources, but very few utilities have tried it.

TVA’s 2015 IRP

With its 2015 IRP, TVA broke new ground by becoming the first Southeastern utility to model energy efficiency as a resource, something SACE had recommended in our 2011 IRP comments. Unfortunately, TVA developed a methodology that inappropriately inflated the cost of energy efficiency and placed unreasonable limits on its ability to compete on a level playing field with other resources. However, TVA has been sharing its experience and could inspire other utilities to model energy efficiency, possibly with better methodologies.

In a year full of changes, it appears that TVA’s fiscal year 2015 net savings have declined to about 0.2% of sales, but new programs could drive growth in the near future. TVA launched a promising new residential audit and retrofit program called eScore in early 2015, and has recently been exploring options for serving lower-income customers, who are generally unable to access TVA’s energy efficiency rebates due to high upfront costs. SACE is engaging on those efforts, and we commend TVA for its interest in providing equitable offerings for lower-income customers.

Georgia Power’s 2016 IRP

Georgia Power filed its 2016 IRP in late January, and unfortunately, it represents more of the same. The company has not modeled energy efficiency as a resource, and its plan provides for only modest growth in energy savings. SACE will testify as an intervenor in the IRP proceeding and recommend ways the company could significantly increase its cost-effective energy savings. One solution we plan to recommend is a tariff-based on-bill financing program that would enable customers to make energy efficiency upgrades with no money down, and achieve immediate bill savings that are greater than the monthly payments.

SACE will continue pushing TVA and Georgia Power to increase their energy savings to catch up with regional leaders such as Entergy Arkansas. We are hopeful that a healthy spirit of competition, as well as Southeastern utilities’ growing experience with energy efficiency, will help to drive significant growth across the region over the next few years.

Stay informed by subscribing to the Front Porch Blog.

The Hidden Gem of Rocky Fork

Thursday, February 18th, 2016 - posted by interns

By Lorelei Goff

Hike to Birchfield Camp Lake

A view of Birchfield Camp Lake in June. Photo by Marty Silver, Tennessee State Parks

A view of Birchfield Camp Lake in June. Photo by Marty Silver, Tennessee State Parks

I arrive at the Lower Higgens Creek trailhead with a dozen other hikers, ranging from an 8-year-old to some with many miles and years to their credit. The jovial banter of Ranger Tim Pharis, Ranger Naturalist Marty Silver and State Naturalist Randy Hedgepath of Tennessee State Parks enlivens our group. This First Day hike on January 1, will take us 2.7 miles to the 100-foot Big Falls on Lower Higgens Creek and Birchfield Camp Lake, a small, man-made lake sitting at 4,000 feet above sea level.

“The name Birchfield Camp comes from the old logging camp that was up here, named after the Birchfield Logging Company,” Pharis says. “The lake was built to suppress wildfires.”

After large-scale logging operations ceased in the 1960s, the 10,000 acres of the Cherokee National Forest known as Rocky Fork remained undeveloped. A decades-long saga, rife with drama and even some intrigue between private sector developers and an alliance of government agencies and activists, ended in 2012 with the land secured for public ownership and enjoyment within the Cherokee National Forest. Rocky Fork State Park, now in development, occupies 2,000 acres of Rocky Fork in Unicoi County, Tenn. The remaining 8,000 acres span portions of Unicoi and Greene counties.

Hikers willing to ford the trail’s creek crossings. Photo by Marty Silver, Tennessee State Parks

Hikers willing to ford the trail’s creek crossings. Photo by Marty Silver, Tennessee State Parks

We start up the remnant of an old logging road, coming to a gravel parking area after about a third of a mile. Hedgepath spots a putty root, a wild orchid with pin-striped leaves. It was traditionally used to seal windows, he says. According to Ranger Silver, Rocky Fork harbors several unique species of orchids and rare trilliums, around 80 species of mosses and liverworts, and rare salamanders including the Yonahlossee, a large, black salamander with a distinctive rusty blotch on its back.

Roughly a mile into our hike, the sound of flowing water grows to a roar and we stop at Big Falls. A steep but short path drops off dramatically to the right, descending to the foot of the falls. The recent rains have swelled the normally tame 100-foot cascade into a foaming cataract. Most of the group makes their way down the slippery path with the help of a safety line secured from top to bottom. We take pictures amid the spray, then climb back up to the trail.

We make the first of several creek crossings a short distance later. After the second creek crossing, the trail veers from Lower Higgens Creek and follows Birchfield Camp Branch, fed by the lake above.

The mood is mirthful, despite the dropping temperature. After more creek crossings, we ascend the steepest segment of the trail and come upon the rusted bones of an ancient logging truck. We explore its remains wondering how it met its demise between the trail and the creek.

The big waterfall on Lower Higgens Creek. Photo by Marty Silver, Tennessee State Parks

The big waterfall on Lower Higgens Creek. Photo by Marty Silver, Tennessee State Parks

The creek sliced through the mountain long before loggers cut a road alongside its path, so narrow that it’s hard to imagine logging trucks descending with their pillage.

The last stretch takes us past a couple of caves to the right and then we see the lake, surrounded by white pines and mountain laurel. It’s small, but the beauty of the scene is augmented by the exhilaration of reaching it. Rumor has it that it’s a popular dining area for local bears, with frog legs being a favorite dish. We all sit down to dine on our lunches, and some stroll along the .75-mile loop around the lake. No bears in sight, just a lone turkey hunter ambling through. On a warmer afternoon, it would be hard to leave, but a raw chill is seeping through our layers and there are some wet feet from crossing creeks. We head back down the trail in the waning light of 2016’s first day.

Lower Higgens Falls & Birchfield Camp Lake

Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous with some challenging creek crossings

Details: 5.4 miles round-trip. Wear high boots, gaiters and bring extra socks

Directions: From I-26, take exit #43. Turn right onto 19/23. After .75 mile, turn right onto Lower Higgins Road, which will end at a small parking area. Groups can park at the I-26 Welcome Center and carpool.

Contact:Contact Rocky Fork State Park: 423-271-1233, tnstateparks.com and Cherokee National Forest, Watauga Ranger District: 423-735-1500, fs.usda.gov/cherokee

More info: “Rocky Fork: Hidden Jewel of the Blue Ridge Wild,” a book by local conservationist and photographer David Ramsey, will be available in spring 2016 through daramseyphotography.com

Radioactive Sludge Being Removed from Sewage Facility

Wednesday, February 17th, 2016 - posted by interns

Two years after radioactive sludge was discovered, the Department of Energy is still removing it from the city of Oak Ridge’s sewage treatment facility.

The pollution was caused by technetium-99 that entered through pipelines in the sewer system from the demolition project at the federal government’s K-25 uranium-enrichment plant on the Clinch River, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel. The plant was built in 1943 as part of the U.S. government’s Manhattan Project, and at that time was the largest building in the world; it is now the U.S. Department of Energy’s largest demolition project.

Since 2014, containment and cleanup of the treatment facility has been in progress, and about 75,000 gallons of radioactive sludge has been removed from and transferred to a Perma-Fix Environmental treatment facility in Richland, Wash.

The Department of Energy contractor in charge of the cleanup recently told the Knoxville News Sentinel that as removal continues, they will approach the upcoming demolition work at the adjacent K-27 facility with the lessons learned from the K-25 project, taking steps to ensure the radioactive contaminants do not once more reach the town’s sewage treatment plant. — Charlotte Wray

Tennessee Leading the Way in Animal Abuse Accountability

Wednesday, February 17th, 2016 - posted by interns

At the beginning of 2016, Tennessee became the first state to implement an animal abuse registry. This registry, available to the public online, will list anybody convicted of committing an animal abuse offense. This list will host people convicted of crimes after January 1. Those responsible for passing the law hope to prevent future cases of animal cruelty, as well as better screen people during adoptions. Concurrently, the FBI began tracking animal abuse as a Group A felony, which has placed it in the same category as homicide and assault. — Dylan Turner

Cougar: Ghost of Appalachia

Wednesday, February 17th, 2016 - posted by interns

By Lorelei Goff

North American Cougar:  Photo by Baranov E / Shutterstock

North American Cougar:
Photo by Baranov E / Shutterstock

A phantom haunts Appalachia. Blurry trail camera pictures and occasional eerie screams in the forest keep the debate about the Eastern cougar’s existence alive among scientists and lay people, even after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared the elusive ghost cat extinct in 2011.

The Eastern cougar, Puma concolor cougar — also known as ghost cat, catamount, puma, painter, panther and mountain lion — once roamed Eastern North America from Canada to Florida. All but the Florida Panthers were wiped out by the early 1900s. Hunting by European settlers, loss of habitat and a decline in the white-tailed deer population — the cougar’s favorite meal — all played a part in its demise.

Myths surround these tawny predatory cats, which can grow up to 8 feet long and weigh in at 200 pounds. One is the notion that they are man killers. The truth is, a fatal accident with a white-tailed deer is many times more likely than a fatal cougar attack, according to The Journal of Wildlife Management.

“The chance of a cougar encounter is incredibly rare, much less, a fatal attack, even where there are established cougar populations,” says Joy Sweaney, a wildlife biologist with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.

Cougar sightings east of the Mississippi River often turn out to be misidentifications of other wild animals or house pets, wandering western cougars, or captive cats that have escaped or been released. Ironically, whether or not the Eastern cougar ever existed as a separate subspecies is now a subject of scientific debate. The question of a distinct genetic profile, or even whether the cat is extinct or not, does not impact their protected status, however; hunting or trading any native species is still illegal unless a state management policy says otherwise.

Cougar Facts

• These unspotted, light brown to tawny cats range from 5 to 8 feet long and weigh 100 to 200 pounds, with a tail one third the length of its body.
• It’s impossible to visually distinguish an Eastern cougar from any other subspecies of cougar.
• Female cougars bear one to six kittens after a three-month gestation. The cougar lives approximately 12 years in the wild.
• The cougar’s vocalizations include screams, hisses, whistles and growls.
• Cougars can leap 15 feet.
• Established breeding populations of the North American cougar remain in western North America and South America.

Wildlife agencies in southern and central Appalachia receive a number of reported cougar sightings every year, which often turn out to be misidentifications or deliberate hoaxes. There have been some confirmed sightings, however, including a widely publicized 2014 report from a farm in Bourbon, Ky. After the farmer’s neighbor called the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife, an officer from the agency shot the cat, believing it posed a threat to the public.

Mark Marraccini, information officer at Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife, doesn’t believe the Bourbon cougar arrived in the state on its own. According to Marraccini, the cat was too well fed to be wild and probably escaped or was released by its owner. DNA tests were withheld while a criminal investigation for illegal trade was underway, fueling a long-standing theory that state agencies have covered up evidence of cougars in the region. Doug Markum with Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency says the conspiracy theory is really just a matter of miscommunication.

“When somebody asked us about cougars, we didn’t say, ‘They’re not here,’” Markum says. “We said, ‘There’s never been good evidence that cougars are here.’ And then they misconstrue that to say, ‘The agency said there are no cougars here.”

DNA testing later revealed that the Bourbon cougar traced its genetic origin to the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Recent sightings have been confirmed in Obion, Humphreys and Carroll counties in western Tennessee. DNA tests from a fur sample show that the Carroll County cougar is a female, also with genetic origins traced to the Black Hills in South Dakota and Wyoming. Biologists believe it is possible that all three sightings are the same cat migrating further east.

Photo by Emmanuel Keller

Photo by Emmanuel Keller

Does the recent increase in sightings mean that a breeding population of cougars may one day inhabit Appalachia? Many folks hope so, including Tennessee State Park Ranger Tim Pharis.

“The way I look at it, if there are any resident cougars, they’re probably the ones that are wise enough to stay away from people,” Pharis says. “If there aren’t, this ecological niche is open. If they’re in West Tennessee, they’ll probably eventually be here, too. It’s just a matter of time.”

Federal Agency Considering Partial Surface Mining Ban in Tennessee

Wednesday, February 17th, 2016 - posted by interns

By Charlotte Wray

In 2010, Tennessee petitioned the U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement to prevent surface coal mining on land within 600 feet of certain ridgelines in a 67,000-acre area north of Knoxville.

The state contended that surface coal mining would not be in accordance with state or local land use plans for the areas, which are currently wildlife management areas and conservation easements, and that mining operations would “significantly damage the natural systems and aesthetic, recreational, cultural, and historic values of the ridgelines and their viewsheds.”

The federal agency’s draft Environmental Impact Statement, released on Dec. 10, 2015, outlined several possible responses to the state petition. The agency’s preferred alternative would designate the requested ridgetop corridors in the 67,000-acre area as unsuitable for coal mining.

At a hearing on Jan. 14, Tom Chadwell, a resident of Campbell County who lives beside the petition area on land that has been owned by his family since 1872, voiced his support for the ban.

”We have a beautiful county, a beautiful community and I don’t want to see us [risk] our land that nature has spent most of the last 50 years trying to recover,” he said.

The agency is now reviewing public input submitted during the 45-day comment period.

Federal agency considers restricting surface mining in Tennessee

Monday, January 18th, 2016 - posted by interns

By Charlotte Wray, Spring 2016 Editorial Assistant

speakers at public hearing

Carol Judy of the Clearfork Community Institute and Willie Dodson, right, of Appalachian Voices speak in support of the Lands Unsuitable For Mining designation at a January hearing in Jacksboro, Tenn.

The Cumberland Mountains in Tennessee are home to diverse habitats and headwater streams that are vital to tourism and safe water, but these have been jeopardized by the threat of coal mining.

The federal government is deciding whether to grant the State of Tennessee’s 2010 request to designate a portion of land in East Tennessee unsuitable for surface coal mining.

Stand up for the Cumberland Mountains! Send your comment to the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement.

In 2010, Tennessee petitioned the U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement to prevent surface coal mining on land within 600 feet of certain ridgelines in a 67,000-acre area. The land is located north of Knoxville in the North Cumberland Wildlife Management Area and the Emory River Tracts Conservation Easement.

The state contended that surface coal mining would not be in accordance with state or local land use plans for the areas, and that mining operations would “significantly damage the natural systems and esthetic, recreational, cultural, and historic values of the ridge lines and their viewsheds that exist within these fragile lands.”

The federal surface mining agency’s draft Environmental Impact Statement released on Dec. 10, 2015, outlined several possible responses to the state petition. The agency’s preferred alternative would designate the requested ridgetop corridors in the 67,000-acre area as unsuitable for coal mining. Appalachian Voices and our allies, including the Tennessee-based grassroots advocacy group Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment, support this ban and urge the federal agency to list the area as “fragile lands” to ensure the greatest protection.

A former surface mining site in Tennessee. Photo taken October 2012, flight courtesy Southwings

A former surface mining site in Tennessee. Photo taken October 2012, flight courtesy Southwings

The agency’s preferred alternative would also allow certain areas that were abandoned prior to the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 to be re-mined, if mining companies acquire the necessary permits. SOCM believes that any re-mining should be strictly limited to areas where it is the only solution to the significant environmental problems at the abandoned sites.

At the hearing in Jacksboro, Tenn., on Jan. 14, Tom Chadwell, a resident of Campbell County who lives beside the petition area on land that has been owned by his family since 1872, voiced his support for the ban. He acknowledged the heritage of mining in both his family and Campbell County. His grandfather and grandmother were both in the mining industry before the stock market crash in 1929, he said, but that was a way for economic growth then and it should not be so now.

“Just because Campbell County is having tough times, and we are, doesn’t mean that we do whatever we can whether it’s right or wrong,” he said. “I do believe tourism is a way to go, we have a beautiful county, a beautiful community and I don’t want to see us [risk] our land that nature has spent most of the last 50 years trying to recover.”

This land, including the Cumberland Trail, is a highly valued tourism area, generating $177.4 million per year, creating 1,420 jobs and producing more than $16 million in state and local tax receipts, according to SOCM. Surface mining operations would destroy vibrant lands, clean water and natural resources and negatively impact Tennessee’s growing tourism industry.

The federal agency’s draft Environmental Impact Statement determined that the areas at stake are “fragile lands” that are ecologically significant and contain fish and wildlife habitat and recreational resources that could be severely damaged by coal mining activities.

A final decision on the proposal will be made after the 45-day public comment period ends on Jan. 25.

Submit your comment here.

Stay informed by subscribing to the Front Porch Blog.

Faced with Threats to Nolichucky River, Residents Unite

Wednesday, December 9th, 2015 - posted by interns
Jack Renner sits in his tractor as workers with U.S. Nitrogen start digging to install the pipeline on his land against his will.

Jack Renner sits in his tractor as workers with U.S. Nitrogen start digging to install the pipeline on his land against his will.

A Bridge Over Troubled Water
By Lorelei Goff

Winding southwestward from the North Toe River in Avery County, N.C., the Nolichucky River transitions between a wide, placid ribbon, a narrow torrent of whitewater and a shallow, dancing shoal during its 115-mile course into East Tennessee. Its waters have long been troubled by sediment and runoff from poor agricultural practices, radioactive waste from the Nuclear Fuels Systems plant in Erwin, Tenn., and pollution from other human impacts that have threatened its beauty, diverse ecosystems, recreational opportunities and use as a public water source.

A new threat was proposed along its banks in 2011. Industrial explosives manufacturer U.S. Nitrogen eyed the site of the historic Conway Bridge, which joins Greene and Cocke counties in Tennessee, for a 12-mile dual pipeline. The pipeline will pump up to 1.9 million gallons of water from the river to the company’s ammonium nitrate plant and return 500,000 gallons of effluent daily. The subsidiary of the Austin Powder Company, which supplies explosives for mining operations, plans to operate two ammonia plants, a nitric acid plant and an ammonium nitrate solution plant at the site. A calcium nitrate plant operated by Yara International and a carbon dioxide recycling plant to be operated by an unnamed company are planned at the same location.

Controversies marked the construction of the pipeline, including alleged conflicts of interest by local officials and lawsuits over right-of-ways, trespassing and open meetings violations. These controversies and concerns about the river — ranging from the fate of the endangered Appalachian elktoe mussel, air and water quality, and the lack of an environmental impact study — are bridging social and cultural gaps between predominantly liberal environmentalists, conservative landowners and apolitical residents.

April Bryant, founding director of the Save the Nolichucky group, organized a mock funeral on the Conway Bridge to protest the pipeline. “I get emotional because the Conway Bridge is my family history,” she says. “My great-grandfather’s great-grandfather was Joseph Conway, who fought in the Revolutionary War.”

According to Bryant, she sees the fight for the river as a “fight against tyranny” and hopes her ancestor would be proud of the group for defending it. But she says it’s the environmental concerns that are bringing folks together.

Ann Calfee of Save the Nolichucky measures the pH of the river below a U.S. Nitrogen work site in December 2014. Photos by April Bryant, aprilbryant.com

Ann Calfee of Save the Nolichucky measures the pH of the river below a U.S. Nitrogen work site in December 2014. Photos by April Bryant, aprilbryant.com

“Our well is less than 300 yards from where the pipeline goes into the river,” she says. “There are limestone caves and sinkholes … so I’m sure that water from the river works its way all around under the ground to our wells. My kids drink out of that. Who’s going to check it?”

CWEET, or Clean Water Expected in East Tennessee, is an environmental advocacy group that works for clean water and other social justice issues in the region. The group partners with the nonprofit environmental research laboratory Environmental Quality Institute to conduct chemical and biological water monitoring on the Nolichucky. The groups have completed two rounds of testing to gather baseline data before operations at the plant begin and will continue sampling on a quarterly basis with the help of volunteers.

Ann Calfee is a director of Save the Nolichucky and a plaintiff in a pending lawsuit against the Tennessee Department of Transportation, U.S. Nitrogen and the Greene County Industrial Development Board. The suit questions the legality of permits that allowed the pipeline to be installed in state highway right-of-ways reserved for utilities that serve the public. Calfee says residents are volunteering with CWEET because of concerns about how the plant’s operations will impact the health of the river.

“Our main concerns are what will happen to the aquatic life, the vegetation and the wells,” she says.

CWEET’s director, Deborah Bahr, sees the local efforts as part of a larger grassroots movement to preserve the area and demand high-quality jobs that don’t harm the community. One local teacher created an Advanced Placement class that will give students an opportunity to take part in water testing. Bahr says she hopes CWEET will become a water testing resource for other communities that have concerns about their waterways.

Though the troubled waters flowing under the Conway Bridge are still at risk, the impact on community engagement in environmental and social justice issues in the area has been positive.

“It’s been this really weird mix of people who have come together with all these different views and all these different beliefs,” says Bryant. “But we just want to save the river. We’ve all come together with that purpose.”

Organizing Around the Clean Power Plan

Tuesday, December 8th, 2015 - posted by interns

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finalized the first limits on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants earlier this year. Known as the Clean Power Plan, the rules give states a wide degree of flexibility to determine how to reduce their carbon emissions.

Our teams are hard at work in the Appalachian states to ensure that energy efficiency and renewable energy are priorities and our dependence on fossil fuels is replaced with sustainable energy choices.

In North Carolina, the Clean Power Plan has met resistance from government environmental officials. Our team’s focus is on generating citizen input at the state’s December public hearings to demand a true clean energy plan. In preparation for the hearings, we are drafting public and technical comments and partnering with environmental justice groups, faith organizations and health groups.

In Tennessee, we are launching an on-the-ground campaign to educate Volunteer State residents about the plan and encourage state officials to include clean energy in their power mix.

And in Virginia, we are calling for a state plan that will meet and exceed the 38% pollution reduction target, supporting a citizen movement to press decision-makers to address carbon pollution in a significant, long-term way through emissions trading with other states.

Learn more about our work regarding carbon pollution and climate change.