What’s Happening in Tennessee on Mountaintop Removal Today?

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014 | Posted by Brian Sewell | 1 Comment

TN_mtr_flyover Two important legislative efforts in Tennessee face hurdles in the form of a legislative hearing and committee vote today. Both efforts pertain to coal mining and mountaintop removal. One promotes the health of Tennessee’s mountains and mountain communities, the other would harm them. [ More ]

Ann League: Coordinating to Protect Tennessee’s Mountains

Thursday, January 30th, 2014 | Posted by Ann League | No Comments

ann_league_sm I started working to protect Tennessee's mountains from mountaintop removal coal mining more than 10 years ago because it was personal for me. And I plan to continue fighting mountaintop removal because the mountains of Tennessee will always be in my heart, which is why I am so excited to join Appalachian Voices to coordinate the organization's Tennessee campaign. [ More ]

Choose Your Own [Historical] Adventure: An Appalachian Travel Guide

Thursday, November 14th, 2013 | Posted by Rachel Ellen Simon | No Comments

From left to right: The Lost Sea; Burke's Gardens; Pocahontas Exhibition Mine.

From L to R: The Lost Sea of Sweetwater, Tenn.; Burke’s Gardens; Pocahontas Exhibition Mine.

When my editor first asked me to compile a list of “Historical Hidden Treasures,” I imagined my words guiding readers to ancient, geological wonders; down fossil-riddled hiking trails through former sea basins; deep into old growth forests squirming with endemic salamanders and a host of yet-undiscovered species. My brave readers would venture into the unknown to chart the unseen, name the unnamed, describe the unsung – all while practicing “leave no trace” trail ethics!

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Energy Efficiency Programs Survive the Government Shutdown

Thursday, October 10th, 2013 | Posted by Rory McIlmoil | No Comments

Despite the government shutdown, energy efficiency programs offered by federally-owned TVA and its partner utilities are helping businesses across the Southeast.

Despite the government shutdown, energy efficiency programs offered by federally-owned TVA and its partner utilities are helping businesses across the Southeast grow and thrive.

Although TVA is a government-owned electric utility, the ongoing government shutdown has not affected its operations. As a result, businesses across the Southeast are able to continue saving money and energy thanks to TVA’s Energy Right Solutions for Industry program.

For instance, on Oct. 8, TVA representatives and Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant handed a $2 million check to steelmaker Severstal Columbus as a reward for reducing its energy consumption by nearly 26 million kilowatt-hours — approximately half of the plant’s total energy consumption — through investments in equipment upgrades.

“When we can offset building new buildings with energy efficiency, everyone wins because our fuel and purchase power goes down for all consumers in the valley,” TVA’s Energy Efficiency Director Cindy Herron said, describing the benefits of such investments. “This upgrade will help lower production costs and help Severstal stay competitive, in turn, helping the entire community.”

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Tenn Tuesday: SEJ, CAPP Coal Decline, Record Hydro!

Tuesday, October 8th, 2013 | Posted by JW Randolph | No Comments

Now, with even *more* Chattanooga!

Happy Tuesday! A whole mess of Appalachian Voices’ staff spent most of last week and the weekend at the Society of Environmental Journalists conference in one of the greatest cities in America — Chattanooga, Tenn.

The Scenic City, has the world’s fastest internet, the first LEED-Platinum certified factory at the award-winning Volkswagen plant, an aggressive energy efficiency plan for metro facilities and ranks as one of Outside Magazine’s “ best places to live.”

We’re the only city with our own crowd-sourced typeface, home of the world’s second longest pedestrian bridge, two great aquariums, a zoo, some fantastic art museums, great restaurants, and pretty soon, a downtown trampoline park.

This weekend, Chattanooga concurrently hosted the SEJ conference, the excellent Three Sisters Bluegrass festival, and the “River Rocks” festival. You can catch the block party finale on October 12. Did I mention I watched Michael Jordan play baseball against the Chattanooga Lookouts at historic Engel Stadium? Anyway, the point is that Chattanooga is incredible, and we were honored to play such an integral role in the conference.

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Tenn. Tuesday: Football! Trampolines!! Technology!!!

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013 | Posted by JW Randolph | 2 Comments

Fall is right around the corner and football season is upon us, so let’s get rolling!

Now this is just the kind of headline every Tennessean wants to see: Chattanooga; America’s Next High-Tech Hub?

Here’s what Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke has to brag about my hometown’s technological literacy and phenomenally fast internet:

In the past, we’ve called ourselves the ‘Boulder of the South.’ Then, the next Austin. All kinds of comparisons. My mantra has been: Now is our time. Let’s not worry about what others are doing. Let’s be proud of where we are and take advantage of all of our opportunities.

As if it wasn’t already cool enough that Chattanooga was opening its own trampoline park. C’mon guys, this isn’t even fair anymore.

Now, some bad news that bears repeating. Appolo Fuels is applying for an 804-acre surface mining permit in Claiborne County. But you can help stop this monstrosity of a permit. How?

A joint public meeting 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. You can find much, much more on the proposed mountaintop removal mine here.

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Tenn. Tuesday – Compromise is Not a Condition

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013 | Posted by Brian Sewell | No Comments

The Tea Party measures Senator Lamar Alexander's congressional competence. Or is he being fitted for a hat?

The Tea Party measures Senator Lamar Alexander’s congressional competence. Or is he being fitted for a hat?

We’ll kick off this Tennessee Tuesday post with what seemed like a small story in the big world of Tennessee politics. Last week, the New York Times editorial page blog offered some extra thoughts on a Tea Party letter to Tenn. Senator Lamar Alexander, in which the Tea Party compelled Alexander to retire from office because “our great nation can no longer afford compromise and bipartisanship, two traits for which you have become famous.”

Here’s what the NYT had to say in response:

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

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013 | Posted by Brian Sewell | No Comments

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.

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Tenn. Tuesday: Thanks to Senator Corker, Senator Alexander

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013 | Posted by JW Randolph | No Comments

Tennessee Senators Vote to Confirm Clean Air Expert Gina McCarthy to Lead Environmental Protection Agency

Last week, the United States Senate came down with a strange case of self-loathing and took the rare — some would say extreme — step of actually doing something. Old political professionals, say that this is called “action.” Appalachian Voices members will be most enthused to learn that one of the actions taken by the Senate was to approve longtime clean air advocate Gina McCarthy as the head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

After a historic five months of obstruction and delay, the EPA has a leader again, and Republicans, Democrats and Independents can now return to their regularly scheduled lobbing of criticisms at the agency charged with protecting human health and the environment.” You may consider that quaint, but I say we empower them!

Unfortunately, it seems that the House representatives, ever-quicker to exercise their dysfunction, have caught the do-something-itis, and in doing so have proposed cutting EPA funding by 34 percent in their newest budget proposal. I hope you aren’t using your health or environment more than once a week.

Gina McCarthy was confirmed by a bipartisan vote of 59-40. Appalachian Voices urged a “YES” vote on her confirmation, and senators Alexander and Corker both deserve a big round of applause for voting to confirm Administrator McCarthy. Her expertise and experience working on air quality issues will play a key role in protecting the health and well-being of Tennessee’s citizens, not to mention our $15 billion tourism industry that depends on decent air quality in our beautiful mountains. Senators Alexander and Corker, THANK YOU.

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Tenn Tuesday: Haslam Can’t Keep Hands off the Family Business. Alexander and Corker To Support Critical Energy-Efficiency Legislation? Squirrel!

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013 | Posted by JW Randolph | 2 Comments

Haslam Dragged Down by Coal Ties, TVA All Over the Place, Critical Energy Savings Votes in the U.S. Senate as early as this week.

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam’s troubles continue to be front and center in the national media, with the Associated Press, Wall Street Journal and The Tennessean reporting on Governor Haslam failure to meet his recusal pledge to stay away from the family business, which understandably has serious trouble avoiding the coal industry advocates on its own board of directors.

In May, Tom Ingram told NewsChannel5 Investigates that his firm had not registered with the state that it lobbied for a coal [company] over a three year period because of an “inadvertent oversight.”

The coal company wants to mine on a state wildlife area.

Channel 5 has been doing fantastic work on Governor Haslam’s direct ties to the coal industry, and is finding more questions than answers.

Haslam’s connections to those who would surface mine on our public lands have angered Tennesseans from all walks of life.

Steve Gill, who is the head of Gill Media and a former conservative radio host, said the whole situation looks bad.

“The reason you have these reporting regulations in place is so that everybody will know what side of the game you’re playing on,” said Gill.

“If Republicans were looking at a Democrat governor doing the same sort of things we’ve seen with the private, under the table hiring of Tom Ingram, they’d be pitching a hissy fit,” Gill said.

Ingram declined our request for an interview or to even speak on the phone. His firm sent a letter in response to our questions.

Moving on, as soon as this week, but certainly sometime before Congress mercifully takes their August recess, we expect the Senate to vote on the Energy Savings Act of 2013, otherwise known as Shaheen-Portman (S. 761). This bipartisan legislation had broad support coming out of the Senate Energy Committee by a vote of 19-3.

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Tenn Tuesday: Happy Independence Day!

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013 | Posted by JW Randolph | No Comments

I’m glad to live in a country where crazy stuff happens, but we are at least are able to stand up, criticize and even fire those in charge

Welcome to Tennessee Tuesday! We’ve got our grills, our flags, and our green tomatoes just waitin to be fried. We’ll be fairly succinct this week as we look to pack 5 days of work into an abbreviated work-week and planning for a trip back to our nation’s capitol next week to talk about some exciting energy efficiency developments happening in Congress.

TDEC brought on themselves another round of embarrassment after the (now former) Deputy Director of Water Resources called citizen water complaints “terroristic.” [audio]

Yes, yes, it’s a strange time in America when protecting Appalachia from being blown apart is a threat to national security and we have to poison our own water in secret to stop the terrorists.


A state environmental official suggested at a public meeting that Mt. Pleasant residents who have filed formal complaints about city water quality are committing “an act of terrorism” if their concerns have no basis.

Sherwin Smith, deputy director of the Tennessee Department of Environment’s Division of Water Resources, made the comment and repeated it during a May 29 meeting between TDEC officials, State Rep. Sheila Butt and members of the grassroots activism group Statewide Organizing for Community Empowerment (SOCM).

Rep Sheila Butt and I have spoken on several occasions, and while we don’t agree on everything, I’ve found her to always have an open ear, and to be an avid enthusiast for the democratic process – at the very least. She was not impressed by Mr. Smith’s words.

However, Rep. Butt — whose district includes Mt. Pleasant — was present at the meeting for any clarification Smith may have provided and said his comments were out of place.

“I just have to say that meeting was set up with some citizens of Mt. Pleasant and we were simply talking about water quality and rates of service there, and that comment was really out of context for the meeting that we were having,” Butt said Thursday. “That was my take then and that’s my take now.

“I’m sure he’s sorry he even brought it up,” she continued. “Nobody was talking about terrorism in that meeting.”

It seems that these “terrorists” may have won, as the City of Mt. Pleasant was forced to test their water to make sure that it wasn’t poisonous. Encouraging!…

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Tenn Tuesday: More Sun! Less Surface Mining! TVA, Obama Agree on Climate Plan!

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013 | Posted by JW Randolph | No Comments

TVA says they are in line with the president’s plan on climate change! National Coal is packing their bags and leaving Tennessee! More solar is on the way! Cleaner air, healthier kids, fewer coal plants? It sure does make sense for Tennessee.

We’re having our Tuesday with a dash of Wednesday today over here at Appalachian Voices’ Tennessee HQ. It’s been a big week in the energy world, with President Obama delivering a much bally-hooed speech about his administration’s plans to address climate change through the remainder of his term, and the U.S. Senate Shaheen-Portman (S 761).

Let’s drive straight over to President Obama’s supposedly historic speech on his administration’s plans to address climate change. You can watch the full speech on whitehouse.gov, see the nifty infographic they put together here, and read Appalachian Voices’ statement here.

Appalachian Voices Executive Director Tom Cormons said (and I agree, not only ’cause he’s my boss):

President Obama must stop industry from pushing the costs of doing business off on communities and our environment, while doing more to invest in energy efficiency and renewable sources, particularly in Appalachia and other regions that have borne the brunt of a fossil-fuel economy. For example, the administration’s plan to provide up to $250 million in loan guarantees to rural utilities to finance job-creating energy efficiency and renewable energy investments is a great start. Compare this to the $8 billion in the president’s plan for loan guarantees supporting fossil fuel projects, and its clear that we need to see a much stronger commitment.

Two of the key points of criticism from many environmental, health and public interest groups was that the president’s plan — while taking some important steps on emissions from coal-fired power plants — was essentially a green light for natural gas fracking, and didn’t mention mountaintop removal coal mining at all.

In fact, due to the looming speech, and a slowing Chinese economy, coal shares took a giant nosedive at the beginning of the week. Perhaps that’s another reason that we’ve just learned that National Coal — once Tennessee’s largest coal company — will no longer be doing surface mining in Tennessee. Congratulations to our friends at Sierra Club, SOCM, Tennessee Clean Water Network, and Appalachian Mountain Advocates. We will have more on that case on this blog soon.

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