Front Porch Blog

Tenn Tuesday: The Good, the Bad, and the Solar

Surface Mining Fights Heat Up, National Planting Day inspires us to get dirty, and Appalachia Welcomes you to the Disability Belt!!

I’m gonna get right off and get us started with some good news and some bad news regarding our mountains here in Tennessee, along with two great opportunities to get involved and meet folks across the state working to protect them. One is a public hearing September 24 in Knoxville, and the other is a multi-day get-together in mid-October.

Good News!
A nearly 600-acre surface mine permit has been withdrawn in Claiborne County, Tenn., thanks to the hard work of many citizens across Claiborne County and across the state. This is a fantastic win for the broad coalition of citizens fighting surface mining in Tennessee, and a step in the right direction for what is left of Claiborne County.

There will be a chance to get to know a lot of the men and women responsible for this victory in mid-October. From October 13-15 you can see mountaintop removal first-hand, while getting to know the Big South Fork, Cumberland Plateau, and a few incredible Volunteer staters just a little bit better Register here.

Bad News!
More surface mining could yet be on its way to Claiborne County. On the back of this good news, we receive word that Appolo Fuels is applying for an 800+ acre surface mining permit in the same area. But you can help stop this monstrosity of a permit. How?

A joint public meeting and comment period is being held on Tuesday, September 24 as part of the local interagency working agreement. This is a new process in which all the relevant regulatory agencies are working together to issues mining and water pollution permits.

News Hits
BASF became the first Chattanooga-area business to purchase renewable energy credits through a joint TVA and EPB Green Power Purchasers program. Through the pilot initiative, BASF is matching its power consumption with renewable energy, while helping to build awareness and encourage others to promote the use of regional solar and low-impact hydro.

Speaking of TVA, did you know that TVA estimates the annual cost-savings from flood protection of TVA dams and reservoirs? TVA claims that they saved Chattanooga an unseasonably high $44 million in damages this July alone. But “TVA calculates that without its dams, $800 million of flood damage would have occurred during January, including nearly $700 million of damages in Chattanooga … The extra rainfall [during July] has helped TVA use its 29 power-generating dams to produce about 43 percent more hydro power than normal.”

TVA has put that additional hydro-power to good use, and will drop wholesale rates by 11 percent this September. Finally, TVA is reporting that its debt crisis has been “averted” and will not need to ask Congress to increase its debt limit this year. Though we’re not sure how having a debt of more than $20 billion isn’t considered a crisis.

We’ve covered “America’s Sadness Belt” here on the the blog, but it turns out that our proud state lands right in the center of “America’s Disability Belt” as well. Seventeen of the 20 worst counties in the country for working-age social security payments are in Central Appalachia. Tennessee comes in seventh worst overall, despite the fact that only Claiborne County cracks the top 50 counties. At the time this data was collected, Claiborne County was the state’s largest producer of surface mined coal. Coincidence? Of course not.

Here are the top 50 Counties in America for working age disability payments.

In happier news, Chattanooga was named as one of Forbes’ Top 10 Bike cities in the US and, the Scenic City will be one of just 11 cities to host a certified Ironman Triathlon in 2014! Your humble blogger is typing with extra vigor in order to begin building up the endurance required to complete the race. Registration opens tomorrow, and I’m excited to say that I will do my best to be a finisher of the inaugural Chattanooga Ironman on September 28, 2014!

Another inspiring and warming story of a Chattanooga-area-business slated for great things:

The idea for the only local company that landed a spot in a new statewide business accelerator program came to Ryan Cox while he was watching the Angelina Jolie movie “Beyond Borders.”

“[In the movie], they were spending millions to send truckloads of rice and other staples and grains to refugee camps,” he said. “And I was like, ‘Why wouldn’t they just send them a farm?’ And a light bulb went off. And I’ve been impassioned ever since. Last week, leaders with Launch Tennessee announced the 10 companies chosen to participate in The TENN, which is Tennessee’s first master accelerator business program…Cox’s HATponics produces portable, high-density farms using aquaponics, which is the hybrid of hydroponics and aquaculture…With HATponics, Cox and his team of about 11 employees use the waste from the fish they raise to grow food, such as herbs, vegetables and fruit, in a portable format.

Solar has rapidly become “tantalizingly close” to achieving price parity with fossil fuels. Open PV has a great map of Solar’s incredible growth in Tennessee.

Lastly, here comes National Planting Day! Here is where you can order native plants or find nearby native plant nurseries

Song of the week
I love everything about this rendition of “Tennessee Twister”-





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