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Save the Date: Fall Retreat October 13-15th! Join the TN Chapter for our Fall Fun Retreat at Pickett State Park. Retreat will feature hikes by TN State Parks Naturalist, Randy Hedgepath, on both Saturday and Sunday mornings. We are planning more events including outdoor activities, silent auction, bonfire with s’mores, live music, youth activities and more. Watch for details in the upcoming e-news and Tennes-Sierran. Early bird reservation by October 5th is $60 for the weekend: dorm style lodging, 2 breakfasts and Saturday evening dinner. You can register now at
Tennessee Chapter Fall Retreat.
How Tennessee Valley Authority is planning for growth and meeting future demand | Opinion. "Growth has led to a rising demand for electricity...With 7 million residents, Tennessee was
the seventh fastest growing state last year...As our reliance on electricity continues to grow, there is no one lever to pull that can increase our power supply. Meeting this challenge requires planning and taking the right actions to ensure we continue to provide affordable, reliable, resilient, and increasingly clean energy. Here is TVA’s plan for growth..." Read more by Jeff Lyash, TVA CEO, Guest Columnist - The Tennessean - July 27, 2023.
TVA: A Controversial Model for America's Climate Future. "In much of the South, electricity is in the hands of the U.S. government, not private companies. Is anyone better off?...In the past [TVA] has performed badly on a variety of environmental issues. It built an unnecessary dam, the Tellico, that drowned important Cherokee cultural sites and hundreds of farms and notoriously threatened to extinguish a little fish, the snail darter. (The darter has since recovered.) It stepped back from solar and energy-efficiency efforts when it could have led the way. It was slow to reduce air pollution from its coal plants—which are still lethal polluters—and allowed the major coal-ash disaster in Kingston to happen."
Read more by Robert Kunzig - The Atlantic Magazine - July 25, 2023.
Cash for Clout: Tennessee’s million dollar club. "Cash for Cloutis a Tennessee Lookout series examining the influence of money on state politics. A select group of companies, families and corporate associations make it into Tennessee’s seven-figure club." Read more by Adam Friedman - Tennessee Lookout - July 24, 2023.
Former Nominee Marquita Bradshaw Running for Senate Again. "Bradshaw, a Memphis environmental justice advocate, is aiming to take on Republican U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn in 2024...Since the 2020 election, Bradshaw
launched nonprofit Sowing Justice and was mentioned as a
potential nominee to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission." Read more in Nashville Scene - July 20, 2023.
Pickett State Park overlook as the leaves change. Photo credit: Mac Post.
DOE's nuclear growth proposal 'untethered to reality.'"The US Department of Energy (DOE) is once again promoting large-scale reactors after spending a decade advancing smaller models...This is beyond absurd — it's irresponsible. It’s absurd because the US no longer has the supply chain needed for large-scale nuclear projects — it can’t even forge a pressure vessel; it’s irresponsible because the cost of building 200-300 new reactors would be more than $3 trillion." Read more by Stephanie Cooke - Energy Intelligence Group - April 3, 2023.
WATCH: What is coal ash? "Public health expert Greg Nichols explains what coal ash is and what it can mean for your health." Watch video here. By Angela M. Gosnell and Caitie McMekin - Knoxville News Sentinel - July 12, 2023.
Protect Our Aquifer hires first science director. "Protect Our Aquifer formed in late 2016 for what its founders thought would be a short-lived legal fight against the Tennessee Valley Authority’s proposal to use drinking water to cool a local power plant. But, in the absence of another aquifer advocacy organization, the group decided to continue its work. Now, as the nonprofit enters its seventh year, it’s striving to become more science-driven, starting with hiring its first full-time science director." Read more by Keely Brewer - Daily Memphian - July 24, 2023.
Why the children of Claxton, Tennessee, have a playground built on top of coal ash. "Some of the ash was disposed of in landfills, some of it was reused in concrete and some of it was used as fill to level land, which happened at the Claxton playground site. We don’t know where it all is or exactly what dangers it poses to the communities near such sites." Read more by Anila Yoganathan - Knoxville News Sentinel - July 13, 2023.
Kid's Palace Playground in Claxton, Tenn. is pictured in front of Bull Run plant. Photo credit: Todd Waterman.
Health & Justice
Tennessee residents unable to drink or use tap water following diesel fuel spill. "Many of the 40,000 people in the suburb of Germantown are under order to avoid using water for everything except flushing toilets" after a diesel fuel spill that occurred on July 20. "Officials said that a generator at the plant spilled diesel fuel into a reservoir after the facility lost power during recent storms." On July 27, Germantown officials announced water was safe to drink unless diesel odor persists after customers have thoroughly flushed their pipes. Read more
by Maya Yang - The Guardian - July 26, 2023.
Tennessee raises bar to restore voting rights for those with felony convictions. "A new guidance from Elections Coordinator Mark Goins 'effectively closes the door to voting rights restoration for over 470,000 Tennesseans,' one legal advocate said." Blair Bowie, an attorney and director of the Campaign Legal Center’s Restore Your Vote initiative said, “The Tennessee Supreme Court’s decision flies in the face of more than 40 years of existing law and of common sense. Election officials can’t just wake up one day and decide to unilaterally change the law to disenfranchise eligible voters, and it is deeply disappointing that the State Supreme Court went along with it.”
Read more by Kathy Carlson - Tennessee Lookout - July 27, 2023.
Advocates from across the country rally in Chicago for Coal Ash Rule Reform. "More than 100 coal ash sites sit within two miles of the Great Lakes, a drinking water source for 30 million people. Community groups called on the EPA for stricter regulation." Read more by Aydali Campa - Inside Climate News - July 1, 2023.
Climate Coach: Down to earth advice for life on our changing planet. "For most of us, our idea of what constitutes dangerous heat no longer applies. If you’re among the
through one of the worst heat waves on record, be careful. You can see the National Weather Service’s heat index scale here." Read more by Michael J. Coren - Washington Post.
Statewide environmental events listed chronologically.
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Fri. August 4th at 7:00 PM - Songwriters Revival Round. Join Jonathan Singleton and friends for a free concert at Marrowbone Creek Brewing Company in Ashland City, TN. Jonathan explains: "We are playing songs, and talking about TVA coming out to the country ruining our country, living with smoke stacks."
Tues. August 8th from 7:00 - 8:30 PM - Tennessee's Environmental Legacy of Coal, Indian Removal, and Industry. Join the Harvey Broome Group for a presentation by Rob Winslow, filmmaker and historian from Chattanooga. "East Tennessee has a pivotal role in the story of the modern world. Especially in this moment of transition, re-thinking our own landscape can equip us for creating change in our own time. Tonight's program grows out of a 2022 arts residency on "climate resilience," spent reporting the legacy of coal country, Indian Removal, and generations of industry." Get details and register
Thurs. August 10th at 7:00 PM - Middle TN Group (MTG) Social and Speaker. Join us to hear from speaker Elizabeth Langgle-Martin, who serves as the Director of Community Engagement at The Nashville Food Project where she has been a part of food and land access work for over 5 years. Elizabeth believes that access to quality, culturally appropriate food is a human right and that all people deserve power and sovereignty in their own foodways. Get details and RSVP here.
Fri. August 18th & Sat. August 19th from 9:00 AM - 4:00 PM ET - Cumberland Trail Volunteer Days. Come out toLaurel-Snow State Natural Area in Dayton, TN to help build and maintain trails. Tools provided, but bring work gloves, water, and wear appropriate clothing. Details and registration form here.
Tues. August 22nd at 6:30 PM - Memphis Mayoral Candidates Environmental Forum. Organized by the Chickasaw Group, come and listen to candidates answer questions about environmental issues in Memphis. Get details and RSVP here.
In Smoky Chicago, We Testify for a More Just EPA Coal Ash Rule
By Todd Waterman
I'd been a standing declarant for SOCM in Earthjustice and its co-plaintiffs SOCM, Sierra Club, and others’ successful lawsuit suing the EPA for an updated Coal Ash Rule that would at last cover not just the half of the power plant coal ash impoundments in use after the current rule went into effect in 2015, but all of them. So I agreed to testify at the June 28 EPA public hearing on the proposed new rule in Chicago. Earthjustice’s suit had cited my nearby Bull Run coal plant’s impoundments, all of which were exempt even though they’d already contaminated our groundwater and the drinking water reservoir for Anderson and much of Knox Counties.
But how could I speak for someone who’d endured decades of living right beside Bull Run, under a constant rain of toxic coal soot? Or for someone dying because they’d been denied a mask while cleaning up the Kingston coal ash spill? Nonetheless, there I was in a Chicago hotel, at 5 AM groggily still groping for words to persuade the EPA, in a five minute comment that afternoon, to protect my neighbors and friends from millions of tons of toxic Bull Run coal ash that TVA wants to abandon in place when it closes the plant later this year.
I needn’t have worried so. First commenting were Appalachian Voices’ Bri Knisley, Duke University coal ash researcher Avner Vengosh, and Susan Wind, whose cancer-plagued home town was built over coal ash. But the most powerful comments I’d ever heard came from Kingston spill activists. Betty Johnson, recent widow of coal ash cleanup driver Tommy, angrily berated EPA’s panelists– why hadn't they done their job? Why hadn’t they protected her husband? Immediately after came Julie Bledsoe, whose Kingston cleanup worker husband now has COPD. She paraded before the panelists a photo of a worker whose coal ash-spattered face revealed he’d been made to wear goggles but no mask. By the time I testified, hours of powerful, sometimes tearful comments from
experts and activists from all over the country had made the case for a strong new rule. I pleaded that without strong enforcement and an end to the EPA’s “Non-hazardous” coal ash designation, TVA would do little.
Chicago was an organizing tour de force by Earthjustice Attorney Lisa Evans. She hadn't just successfully sued the EPA for an updated rule: she’d lit up organizers and activists from 22 states and Puerto Rico; raised money for and booked flights and hotels; and prepared us with a webinar, commenting tips, and talking points. She would encourage many more of us to comment on EPA’s July 12 Online Hearing and to submit written comments by the July 17 deadline.
Though no utilities dared comment on camera in Chicago, they’ll be lobbying hard against Sierra Club and partners’ expensive consensus ask: that all coal ash be safely and justly removed to high, dry, lined storage, away from people and waterways. But we departed Chicago as a united, nationwide movement. We know each other now. We know we’re not alone. And we know we’ll keep raising our voices together until justice is won.
Upper image: Betty Johnson, Julie Bledsoe, and Todd Waterman give comments at the June 28 EPA session in Chicago. Lower image: Large crowd of supporters with signs flank a spokesperson for Just Transition Northwest Indiana at that afternoon's press conference (Photos: Upper right courtesy Matthew Kaplan Photography; others by Todd Waterman).
Give Your Vehicle a New Purpose
Fundraising Corner with Mac Post
Did you know you can donate your used vehicle to benefit the Sierra Club's important advocacy work? Whether it’s running or not, your car, truck, boat, RV, or motorcycle could support the Sierra Club Foundation. Your donation will go towards raising awareness of our efforts to protect and improve the natural environment of our local region.
We make the process of donating your old car or unused vehicle both simple and easy. Plus, you may even qualify for a tax deduction. Just call 844-6-SIERRA (844-674-3772) or visit our vehicle donation link for easy instructions about the process.
Clean out your garage and help out the environment by making a significant contribution to our vehicle donation program. Donate your vehicle today!
Dear Eartha: Advice from an Eco-Guru
I was reading about the SAG-AFTRA strike in the pro-union newsletter The American Prospect, which led me to the idea of a “creator economy.” Naturally, being a Sierra Club environmentalist, I became curious about how these creators are creating influence regarding climate change. What do you know? — Not a Luddite in Brentwood
Dear Not a Luddite,
Greeeeaaaat question! For those of us unsure what the “creator economy” is, The Washington Post defines it as “the wildly popular market of online influencers and video makers who increasingly rival industry titans for money, attention and cultural power” (Harwell, Lorenz
, 7/23/23 edition). With the explosion of online streaming, at nearly 37 percent of all video viewing nationwide, money is being made by relative amateurs, with the biggest streaming service being—you guessed it—YouTube. Leaving discussion about scabbing for another time, some of these creative influencers are online environmental activists – and big time.
Wired Magazine in 2021 reported this: “Thomas Schinko, leader of the Equity and Justice Research Group at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, says the storytelling aspect of TikTok is what makes it so effective: ‘From our research experience we know that storytelling is key for communicating the climate crisis in a way that can lead to taking action.’” Of Wired’s TikTok climate influencers, one I found most compelling, 24-year old Louis Levanti, who lives with his parents (or at least did then) on Long Island, has gained a following on TikTok. Check him out here.
I've recently worked with climate folks in a national environmental group of older Americans who pooh-poohed TikTok as beneath the dignity of serious climate activism. But my cursory review disproves their suspicions. TikTok, YouTube, and other online streaming services where amateurs are storytellers with 21st century panache allow climate activism to reach and influence large swaths of American and global youth.
A Google search brought me to “Climate Creators to Watch 2023,” a collaboration between Pique Action and the Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment at Harvard’s School of Public Health. This group lists and shares dozens of creators who, by changing the “conversation around climate by producing content that elevates solutions and drives action,” are reaching wider audiences of young people (piqueaction.com). Reputable news sources such as The New York Times and NPR are listed on this website. Going to
their website allows you to check out any of these climate influencers' sites on TikTok and Instagram (owned by META).
I'm thinking you, dear reader, agree with me that how young and old are influenced to active solutions and generative climate decisions is requisite now to saving planet Earth. These mostly young creators are reaching their peers in ways that others are not. Thanks for bringing this question to my attention.
Yours, as always, in climate change gear,
Submit your questions and comments to the Sierra E-News Editor [Enews.firstname.lastname@example.org].Dear Eartha is penned by Rita Bullinger.
This month's featured species is: Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis)
Cardinal flowers have a relatively short lifespan (around three to four years) and are known to reseed themselves. Photo credit: BudOhio, CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0
The bright red cardinal flower is native to North America and blooms in late summer. Its name pays homage to Flemish botanist, Matthias de L'Obel (1538-1616). It is in the Bellflower family.
The cardinal flower has delicate blossoms that open gradually from the bottom upward on spikes that are two to four feet tall. The red blooms attract hummingbirds and butterflies.
A water lover, cardinal flower does well in moist locations such as ditches, riverbeds or pond edges. Otherwise, keep these flowers mulched to retain moisture.
Native American uses of cardinal flower include teas to treat upset stomach, syphilis, typhoid, or worms. It was also used to make love potions. It is considered to be moderately toxic if eaten in large quantities.
The views expressed by contributors are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Sierra Club.
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