Front Porch Blog

Tenn. Tuesday – A Bright Day, Welcoming The Newest Tennessean

Appalachian Voices Tenn. Director welcomed his second daughter this week, and we added our name to the long list supporting the Tennessee Wilderness Act.

Appalachian Voices Tenn. Director welcomed his second daughter – the newest Tennessean – to the world this week, and we’re proud to join the long list supporting the Tennessee Wilderness Act.

Appalachian Voices’ resident Tennessean, and a proud one at that, is celebrating the birth of his second daughter, who for at least a little while yesterday morning was the newest resident of the great state of Tennessee. Congratulations JW, Elizabeth and Emma, we know Isla James will be as proud of her home as y’all are.

Staying with that wonderful news, Appalachian Voices has joined a long list of businesses and organizations supporting Tennessee Wild, a group dedicated to protecting the Cherokee National Forest for the benefit and enjoyment of current and future generations. The group is also a leading force in efforts to pass the Tennessee Wilderness Act, which would designate 20,000 acres of the Cherokee National Forest as wilderness, the highest form of protection on public lands, including the first new wilderness area in the Volunteer State in more than two decades. In July, the bill was introduced for a third time by Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker of Tennessee.

According to a piece on Nooga.com by Jenni Frakenberg Veal, a friend and contributor to The Appalachian Voice, advocates are hoping the third time is the charm. Before moving to the Senate floor, the bill must pass the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Watch this video for more on the Tennessee Wilderness Act. We think you’ll be a supporter too.

The latest energy-themed issue of The Appalachian Voice is hot off the press and we’re excited to share stories about our region’s potential to lead the clean energy revolution by example. Depending on the angle you take, Tennessee could be seen as a leader or as lacking the policies that encourage the expansion of renewable energy projects.

We believe that educating residents about the potential for energy efficiency — to save money, create jobs, and yield economic and environmental benefits — is essential to changing the way people use electricity. That’s why we were happy to see that the Tennessee Energy Education Initiative is hosting a free seminar called “Untapped Opportunities for Energy Efficiency in Multi-family Housing” efficiency on Thursday, Aug. 15 in Knoxville. At the event, local experts will discuss how an effective energy strategy for multi-family properties can reduce costs, improve tenant comfort and affordability, and reduce turnover and vacancy.

Is Tennessee Truly Committed to Solar?

As we’ve mentioned in our Tennessee Tuesday blog series, the Volunteer State is making waves (or would it be rays?) in solar power. The state ranks 14th in solar jobs despite ranking 17th in total population, and has more rooftop solar capacity than Virginia, Kentucky and West Virginia combined. And Tennessee is about to get more solar-friendly, after Tennessee Valley Authority and Strata Solar, a private company based in Chapel Hill, N.C., announced plans to build two 20-megawatt solar farms near Selmar. Together,the farms will be eight times the size of the largest existing solar installation in the TVA system — the University of Tennessee’s 5-megawatt West Tennessee Solar Farm — and could generate enough electricity to power 4,000 homes.

While TVA’s commitment to solar is admirable, Tennessee still has no renewable energy standard and clean energy advocates claim the utility is using their authority to constrain the market for solar. TVA’s Green Power Providers program recently raised the cap for annual residential generation from 7.5 to 10 megawatts. But solar companies in the state believe more should be done.

In the meantime, TVA has agreed to purchase a majority share of the Southaven natural gas plant in Mississippi for $400 million. The news is by far the biggest decision involving TVA since President Obama proposed a possible sale or privatization of the electric provider.

Calling Out TVA on Coal Ash

Like many of America’s largest utilities, TVA is being forced to reckon with a legacy of coal ash pollution. A new report released by the Waterkeeper Alliance, Environmental Integrity Project, Clean Water Action, Earthjustice and the Sierra Club, uses TVA’s 11 coal-fired plants as a case study and evidence of the need for federal rules on toxic coal ash disposal. After all, the largest coal ash spill in history occurred at TVA’s Kingston plant in 2008, when 5.4 million cubic yards of toxic waste flooded the Emory River and the nearby community.

A TVA spokesperson told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that, following the preventable disaster at the Kingston plant, the authority agreed to convert its 23 ash ponds to dry containment, but expects the conversion to take eight to 10 years and cost up to $2 billion.

Ask the supporters of Tennessee Wild, ask anyone worried about the health of Tennessee’s waters, and they will tell you unequivocally that the threats to wilderness and water are very real. Just don’t trust anyone currently representing the state in the U.S. House of Representatives to give you a straight answer. On July 25, Tennessee’s representatives all voted in favor of a bill to leave coal ash regulation to the states and prevent EPA from stepping in when state agencies fail to act.

California Senator Barbara Boxer, who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, asked her colleagues to block the legislation from passing the Senate. Lawmakers “must be mindful of what happened in Kingston, Tenn.,” Boxer wrote.

Lest we forget the natural wonders worth protecting in Tennessee and across Appalachia, check out the trailer for the documentary Hidden Rivers. Better yet, go explore Cherokee National Forest or Tennessee’s newest state park and discover Tennessee’s hidden rivers for yourself.

Hidden Rivers – Fundraising Preview from Freshwaters Illustrated on Vimeo.

Thanks for reading. Is there an environmental or energy-related story happening in your area that we should know about? Let us know in the comments and sign-up to receive Tennessee Tuesdays in your inbox.

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