Harvey Broome Group July 2022 Newsletter


Editor: Julie Elfin
Assistant Editors: Todd Waterman & Judy Eckert
Formatter: Joanne Logan


Current Situation

Due to the evolving COVID-19 pandemic situation, we are sensitive to our constituents during this challenging crisis…

HBG Returns to In-Person Meetings

July marks the return of in-person meetings for the Harvey Broome Group Executive Committee. We will meet at Church of the Savior, 934 N Weisgarber Rd, Knoxville, TN, 37909, in the small building at the right end of the parking lot, at 7 PM on the fourth Tuesday of each month. There will also be a Zoom meeting option. 

There will be no HBG program meeting in July. We will return to in-person program meetings in August. Stay tuned for upcoming program topics and locations. 

Sierra Club National COVID Operations Update 

From Sierra Club President Ramón Cruz:
“Effective June 1, 2022 and through no longer than August 31, 2022, Sierra Club will begin tiering back our operational response to COVID-19. We recognize that COVID continues to impact our daily lives and the next phase of our response is designed to continue to provide each of us with flexibility, while also enabling some activities to resume with less restriction. More formally, this means we are moving to a Tier 2A response (from the Tier 2B stage we’ve been in for the past 2+ years). Please review the COVID Response Quick Reference Guide for all of our current response support.”

Read more about reopening guidelines here.

Sierra Club COVID Info Hub.

Meetings and events:
Online (via Zoom) - Tennessee Chapter ExCom Business meetings
In Person and Online (via Zoom) Harvey Broome Group ExCom meetings
In Person and Online (via Zoom) Harvey Broome Group Program Meetings

July 2022 Virtual Program NO PROGRAM THIS MONTH

Note: Consult the HBG website Calendar for updates to our calendar. Questions regarding HBG events should be addressed to HBG Chair Jerry Thornton (gatwilcat@aol.com).

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HBG and Local Issues & Business

What Will Your Legacy Be?

There is no greater commitment to nature, the environment, and environmental justice for the future than to name the Tennessee Chapter, or any of its member groups, as a beneficiary in your will or trust. The legacy you create now can continue, in your name, with a tax-free bequest to the Tennessee Chapter through the Sierra Club Foundation. For more information on how to accomplish this, including sample request language templates see https://www.sierraclub.org/tennessee/planned-giving
If you have named the Sierra Club Tennessee Chapter as a beneficiary or would like more information, reach out to our staff – Gift Planning Department, gift.planning@sierraclub.org, 800-932-4270.


Call for Nominations for the Harvey Broome Group (HBG) ExCom
The HBG Nomination Committee is seeking self-nominated candidates and suggestions for nominees! This year, six of HBG’s 12 ExCom members will reach the end of their terms. The Sierra Club’s democratic process ensures it is held accountable to its membership with viable candidates who best represent our members’ interests. Any HBG member in good standing is eligible for nomination for the HBG ExCom.
The HBG ExCom sets the budget and strategic direction, reaches consensus on conservation positions, raises money, appoints officers and committee chairs, plans important events, and approves litigation and electoral endorsements. To accomplish all of this, the HBG ExCom meets on 11 fourth-Tuesday evenings a year, and there is e-mail correspondence between meetings.
After receiving your nominations by July 31, 2022, the HBG Nomination Committee will consider and recommend candidates for the ballot, which is published in the November/December edition of the Tennes-Sierran bi-monthly newspaper and now also online for members opting in to receive Sierra Club emails. Candidates may also get on the ballot by petition and are allowed space on the ballot to advocate for their election. Candidates receiving the top votes will start their 2-year terms in January 2023.
Any HBG Member wishing to be considered as a candidate should indicate their intent by July 31, 2022. Email nominations to Julie Elfin at juliebethanyelfin@gmail.com
Thank you!

Support the Harvey Broome Group

The Harvey Broome Group of the Sierra Club is entirely a grassroots volunteer organization. We receive only a small portion of your membership dues from our national organization to use on local issues, and we are allowed to ask you directly for your support only once a year. To continue that work, we need you to become actively engaged with us, and we need your financial support now. Can you help by donating $25, $50, or more to the Harvey Broome Group so we have the funds we need NOW to move our communities toward a cleaner and more vibrant environment and a better life? 
We need your support to enable us to: 
  • Help elect local, state, and federal candidates for political office who share the Sierra Club's values and goals for the environment and environmental justice. Last year, we helped elect five environmentally friendly Knoxville city council members. This year, we want to do the same for the Knox County Commission.
  • Work with Knoxville's Climate Advisory Council to achieve 100% clean energy by 2035.
  • Work with local communities in Northeast Tennessee to stop the ravages of surface coal mining and help them transition to sustainable economies.
  • Work with citizens affected by the massive dumps of coal ash left by TVA at its Bull Run and Kingston power plants to assure that the ash is permanently disposed of in the most environmentally protective manner. 
  • Work with local allies to encourage the Department of Energy to clean up the radioactive wastes and mercury at the Oak Ridge Reservation in an environmentally safe manner. 
  • Help our Oak Ridge allies protect the Black Oak Ridge Conservation Easement from encroachments and to establish a blueway on the Clinch River. 
  • Protect and restore, with regional allies, the Little Tennessee River watershed, a designated Native Fish Conservation Area. 
  • Protect and improve Knoxville's and Knox County's urban forest canopy. 
  • Enhance and expand Knoxville’s and Knox County's greenways and trails network. We recently created a trails guide (Urban Hikes in Knoxville and Knox County) published by Legacy Parks Foundation.
  • Introduce Knoxville's disadvantaged children to the natural world through after school nature programs, guided hikes, and outings (our Inspiring Connections Outdoors program, “ICO”).
  • Protect Great Smoky Mountains National Park from ill-advised development proposals such as new roads and expanded helicopter tours. 
  • Protect the Cherokee National Forest's outstanding scenic and Wilderness areas. We are currently revising the 3rd edition of the Cherokee National Forest Hiking Guide (UT Press, 2005). 
  • Help support our Regional Conservation Committees in Northeast Tennessee (CareNet/Hawkins County, Holston Valley, and Watauga). 
East Tennessee's environmental challenges are daunting, but with the help of dedicated volunteers, along with your financial support, we can make a critical difference. 

Let's do this together! Please send us a donation of $25, $50 or more to help fund our many efforts to move east Tennessee toward a clean, sustainable energy future while protecting our precious natural resources and our communities. 
Contributions and gifts to the Sierra Club are not tax-deductible; they support our effective, citizen-based advocacy and lobbying efforts. Please make checks out to: 
HBG Treasurer 
234 Northshore Drive
Greenback, TN 37742 
or donate online here.

The Harvey Broome Group is also seeking volunteers!

If you are interested in planning HBG’s 50th anniversary commemoration, promoting Sierra Club-endorsed political candidates or assisting with outreach to our East Tennessee communities, email Julie Elfin at juliebethanyelfin@gmail.com.

Sierra Club Knox County Endorsements

We’re in a totally unique political moment. Nationally, we are seeing an attempt to subvert democracy and erect authoritarian rule in its place. Calling it fascist seems hysterical, but the term is not inappropriate. Locally, on the other hand, we see a surge of gifted, focused, and energetic candidates ready to advance a climate-friendly agenda, support racial justice and defend the rights of women. Most importantly, they’re ready to stand up for democracy. The Sierra Club’s political direction emphasizes local races and voter mobilization. The Harvey Broome Group political committee urges Knox County members - don’t just vote for these candidates, volunteer with them, talk about them with neighbors and do what it takes to get them elected.
Find our full list of endorsements here:

Interested in volunteering with HBG’s Political Committee? Contact Kent Minault at kminault@gmail.com.   

Job Opportunity: Sierra Club Tennessee Organizing Representative

Sierra Club is hiring in Tennessee! 
“The Organizing Representative works with community members, volunteers and staff to build and support organized, resilient and powerful communities. The Organizing Representative works with others to build grassroots power, grounded by the Jemez Principles that achieves concrete campaign goals while creating structural and cultural change. Works with community volunteers and Campaign staff to shape campaign goals. The Organizing Representative builds relationships, increases the number of people engaged, supports leadership development and builds just and supportive partnerships. They use existing data tools and processes to enhance organizing work.”
Learn more and apply here. 

HBG Visits Battlefield Farm and Gardens

Article and photos by Jerry Thornton
The June HBG program meeting was our first in-person meeting since the beginning of the pandemic. A small but enthusiastic group of Sierra Clubbers visited the Battlefield Farm, a community garden organized by Rev. Chris Battle, a retired minister. Tended by an ever-changing cadre of volunteers, the garden is a series of raised beds growing many varieties of vegetables to stock community pantries and farmers’ markets in an area of Knoxville deemed a “food desert” due to the lack of grocery stores in the neighborhood. 

Re-used bathtubs, tires and a toilet find new life as raised beds on the farm. 

Many of the raised beds make whimsical re-use of discarded objects, such as bathtubs, tires, and even a toilet! A “high tunnel” greenhouse provides for season-extending growth of cool-season veggies in both spring and fall. There are also a few chickens and an extensive composting facility on the half-acre site.

Chris Battle (center, in black ball cap) led the tour of the farm. 

Rev. Battle explained that there is no grocery store within two miles of many of the low-income residents of the area near the farm, which is on Boyds Bridge Pike near the Holston River in east Knoxville. Battle is developing a second community garden plot and is thinking about creating a food truck that could drive through poor neighborhoods, selling fresh vegetables at moderate prices.

The farm’s colorful beehives.

Battlefield Farm is always in need of volunteers for cultivating, planting, weeding, watering or harvesting. If you would like to help, contact Rev. Battle at crbsr1961@gmail.com. You have the option of “adopting” one of the raised beds to take charge of what is grown there. The HBG urges your support of this worthy endeavor to bring fresh food to underserved communities!

Oak Ridge Environmental Management Disposal Facility (EMDF) Comments

By Virginia Dale
Virginia Dale of Advocates for the Oak Ridge Reservation submitted this in-depth analysis of the proposed hazardous waste landfill expansion on the reservation during the U.S. Department of Energy’s recent public comment period. Learn more about the proposal here: https://ucor.com/additional-emdf-information/ and stay updated on new developments here.
My name is Virginia Dale. My family roots in Tennessee go back to 1798. I've lived in Oak Ridge for more than three decades. I have a PhD in environmental sciences and my comments come from my perspective as a citizen, scientist, and, most importantly, a grandmother who wants all of our children to live in a safe environment. It is absolutely necessary that the contaminated legacy buildings on the Oak Ridge Reservation (ORR) be cleaned up. My concern is that the cleanup occurs in a proper and timely fashion. 
I am a co-principal investigator on a project supported by the National Science Foundation to identify best practices for stakeholder engagement in environmental decision-making. Since our team has learned that appropriate engagement results in better decision-making, I evaluated how well those 6 best practices apply to DOE's decisions regarding the EMDF. 
1. “The full diversity of interested stakeholders should be identified and engaged.”
a. I know of no effort to specifically engage either the people who live in West Oak Ridge nor those in Lenoir City, who are closest to Bear Creek and the streams into which it flows and who are most likely to access and even fish in the contaminated waters. Many of those people are Hispanic and primarily speak Spanish; yet none of the posted signs are in Spanish. 
b. I was so glad to see the Fact Sheets in Spanish. 
c. However, EPA has made a specific effort to reach out to the predominantly African-American community in Scarboro, which has been discriminated against in the past, but that community is not at high risk with the proposed landfill. 
2. “The values of the ecosystem should be identified for all stakeholders.”
a. I am not aware of any effort to document who uses the contaminated waters of Bear Creek or Poplar Creek, into which it flows, or how they use it. 
b. The use of an established forest for the site does not consider its value as a habitat for many organisms even though the ORR has diversity on a per area basis that is similar to the Smokies. 
i. The proposed new landfill site is in an area of the ORR that the OREM End
Use Working Group designated to be kept uncontaminated, while other areas were stipulated to be permanently sacrificed to contamination.
ii. This site has shallow and upwelling groundwater (hydrology unsuitable for waste disposal), is in a watershed that has been relatively unaffected by past federal nuclear activities, and supports mature forest and wetlands. 
3. “Listening deeply takes time and attention.”
a. Careful listening requires answering all questions, making sure the nuances are understood, and using communication tools appropriate for the audience. 
b. Questions asked 4 years ago have still not been answered. 
4. “Trust should be established, which requires upfront transparency as to time frame, process, and results as well as the costs and benefits of potential outcomes.” 
a. The video “20 years of success" is misleading because 
i. The site filled up too fast 
ii. Spills occurred 
1. The landfill has had a series of overflow events that basically dumped 
untreated effluent into Bear Creek.
2. That overflow water averaged more than double the allowed concentration of uranium in drinking water. 
b. Although DOE has been asked, they have not provided: 
i. Costs of off-site transport vs onsite storage - nor the number of employees and type of jobs engaged in each alternative. I expect that offsite transport would require more analysts to document the material while the on-site option would require more truck drivers. 
ii. Waste acceptance criteria have never been provided (the Fact Sheet on WAC says what will not be included - not what will be or what the criteria are for acceptance). The Waste Acceptance Compliance Plan is still in development. 
c. While a field demonstration has been proposed, it seems that some aspect of this demo could have been started in the time since 2018 when questions were formally asked. 
d. DOE's “Site Groundwater Characterization" fact sheet figure on page 2 is highly misleading, for it does not show the waste (of 75') to scale with the rest of the layers (which total 26'). 
5. “Being flexible requires that as new information becomes available, changes are made in the analysis and process.”
a. Even with record rainfall in the intervening 4 years since the last review, no new analyses have been provided that assess how the landfill will operate under increased rain. 
6. “Accountability by all parties is necessary. This means that all questions or concerns be addressed in a timely fashion.”
a. Data, models and their assumptions should be made available. 
b. Questions should be answered - yet queries raised 4 years ago have never been addressed. 
Overall, DOE gets a D in effective engagement of the community. While effective stakeholder engagement is a time-consuming and ongoing process, the total time and effort involved is reduced with early communication and clear engagement. Furthermore, better decisions are made if good practices for engagement in decision-making are followed. 
So I ask DOE once again, please provide information on: 
The basis for choosing the site 
The Waste acceptance criteria details 
All models and their assumptions 
Model projections of landfill conditions under increased rain 
Costs of off-site vs. on-site long-term storage of toxic wastes 
Finally, and most importantly, I ask that a plan for complete cleanup of the ORR be provided (as required by law) instead of providing information piece by piece. Only by taking a holistic look at hazardous waste disposal can the public have confidence that DOE will fulfill its obligation to clean up the Oak Ridge Reservation. Thank you! 


Remember Kingston Solidarity Vigil 

Photos and text by Todd Waterman

Coalition artwork shows Kingston survivor Ron Bledsoe at Swan Park in Kingston. Ron now struggles with COPD, which he and his activist wife Julie Bledsoe blame on TVA and Jacobs Engineering negligence in denying respiratory and other essential PPE.

Including local media, about 35 of us turned out for a rally and speakers in Krutch Park on May 31st, followed by a march to TVA Towers for a photo op. The event was a collaboration between HBG and many local partners, including Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment (SOCM), Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE), Jobs with Justice of East Tennessee(JwJET), Sunrise Movement - Knoxville, Knoxville Democratic Socialists of America, Interfaith Worker Justice of East Tennessee and Appalachian Voices (App Voices). 
Kent Minault recorded the event on Facebook Live for Sunrise Movement - Knoxville’s page.

Opening prayer, led by Rev. Ann Brunger.

Fran Ansley of Jobs with Justice of East Tennessee.

Maggie Longmire gets by with a little help from her friends.

Nzinga Bayano Amani, formerly David Hayes, with their kid; Adam Hughes of Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment (SOCM), in orange; and Brady Watson of Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE).

Jim Sessions of Interfaith Worker Justice of East Tennessee led a chant: “We remember them!”

Marching to TVA Towers

Not all stayed for the march and photo op, which followed several media interviews at the end of the Krutch Park rally.

This was one of several vigils planned in solidarity with Kingston coal ash spill cleanup workers and their families ahead of a critical Tennessee Supreme Court hearing on June 1st to determine whether they can sue TVA cleanup contractor Jacobs Engineering solely for harm caused by “silica and dust,” despite the plethora of heavy metals, airborne particulates and other coal ash toxins to which they were exposed. Nearly 60 Kingston cleanup workers have died, and hundreds more are sick, after having been denied respirators and other protective equipment by Jacobs throughout the massive, seven-year cleanup.  
Watch WBIR’s coverage of the hearing here.

Public Comment: Retire TVA’s Cumberland Fossil Plant 

This is an excerpt from the Clean Up TVA Coalition’s comment submission. Read the full comment here.
“We are at a crossroads - for our climate and our communities. Our over reliance on fossil fuels, like methane gas, and ever-rising greenhouse gas emissions are inflicting mass suffering and instability around the world, including right here in the Valley. To preserve a livable planet and for a decent chance at limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, the United States must end coal use by 2030 and methane gas production by 2031. That’s why the decisions the Tennessee Valley Authority (“TVA”) - our country’s largest federal utility - makes from here on out are so crucial. They will have lasting consequences for our climate, our communities, and thus our ability to ensure an affordable, safe, equitable and resilient energy future for all people.
“From disastrous flooding and tornadoes that ravaged TVA’s region, to the winter storm earlier this year that left thousands of TVA customers without power in Memphis, the reality of a rapidly changing climate could not be more clear. These storms and climate events will only become more frequent and intense with prolonged dependence on fossil fuels and insufficient action from mega-polluters to cut greenhouse gas emissions. TVA is one of the country’s largest emitters - ranking in the top 10 among the 100 largest electric power producers – averaging 50 million tons of CO2 emissions. We appreciate TVA has made some progress in reducing its massive carbon footprint, but the agency lacks urgency in confronting the climate emergency head on, and in fact is moving in the opposite direction evidenced by recent considerations of additional methane gas buildout.
“We therefore submit these comments urging you, as leaders of the Tennessee Valley Authority, to put the climate and Tennessee Valley residents first by considering an additional alternative that would expedite the retirement of all Cumberland coal units by 2030 and maximize clean, renewable energy, including distributed solar, energy efficiency, and battery storage. Importantly, the alternatives that TVA considers must center on justice and equity and minimize negative environmental impacts.” 


Federally Funded Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)

This federal program provides federally funded assistance in managing costs associated with: home energy bills, energy crises, weatherization and energy-related minor home repairs.

Read about other local events in Tennessee in our Chapter e-newsletters.

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Events and Actions


Electric Vehicles in the Smokies

Saturday, July 9, 10 AM - 4 PM
Townsend Visitor Center
7906 E Lamar Alexander Pkwy, Townsend

Presented by Knoxville Electric Vehicle Association and Drive Electric Tennessee

“If you drive a gas vehicle, bring your questions and curiosity and enjoy checking out all the EVs that will be there! You will be able to talk with EV owners and learn about transitioning to clean, quiet, fast, and fun electric driving! 

“If you drive an EV, bring your lawn chairs and picnic blankets and enjoy a fun day hanging out in the Smokies to share your enthusiasm with current and future EV owners! If your EV is a motorcycle, we’ll have extra lawn chairs for you.

“If you have questions about the event, please contact KEVA at Knoxville.ev.club@gmail.com.” 


Environmentally-Friendly Financial Literacy Fundraiser 

Friday, July 22 - Sunday, July 24
Knoxville Convention Center
701 Henley St.
Knoxville, TN 37902

This event is meant to provide clarity regarding how to establish Financial Literacy/Personal Finance and Sustainability as mandatory subjects in K-12 schools, both in Tennessee and abroad.

For more information, contact Stefen White at stefenwhite3@gmail.com


Tennessee River Basin Network Conference


Public Comment Opportunity: Power Plant Retirements & Community Revitalization

 “The Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization is requesting public comments to help prioritize and plan assistance to energy communities, including coal, oil and gas, and power plant communities.
“This request for information seeks input from the public on the challenges facing energy communities, measures to address those needs, and recommendations for the Federal Government to consider. Please provide your comments via the form below, and more on this information request is available in the accompanying Federal Register notice.” 
Fill out the form here to make your voice heard!  

Volunteer with Knoxville’s Urban Heat Island Mapping Campaign 


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Environmental Newsflash

*** Note to readers about accessing these articles


Supreme Court restricts the EPA's authority to mandate carbon emissions reductions. Nina Totenberg, National Public Radio website, June 30. 

 "Justice Elena Kagan wrote in her dissent: 'Today, the court strips the EPA of the power Congress gave it to respond to the most pressing environmental challenge of our time. ... It deprives EPA of the power needed—and the power granted—to curb the emission of greenhouse gasses.' She was joined by the court's other two liberals.
"The decision appears to enact major new limits on agency regulations across the economy, limits of a kind not imposed by the court for 75 years or more. The decision, for instance, casts a cloud of doubt over a proposed Securities and Exchange Commission rule that would require companies offering securities to the public to disclose climate-related risks – like severe weather events that have or likely will affect their business models. Also in jeopardy is a new interim rule adopted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission 'aimed at treating greenhouse gas emissions and their contribution to climate change the same as all other environmental impacts [the Commission] considers.' " 

Sierra Club National 2030 Vision, Sierra Club.

“Sierra Club’s 2030 Strategic Vision posits a bold, transformational agenda that recognizes the interconnectedness between our planet, our humanity, and our democracy. A vision that is firmly rooted in our Core Values of anti-racism, balance, collaboration, justice, and transformation.
“Working with our Chapters, Groups, and Outings Leaders, and partnering with BIPOC-led organizations and First Nations we build long term power together to:
Protect 30% of U.S. lands and water
Ensure 50 million more people can equitably access nature outdoors
Restore access to clean air and water, provide affordable clean energy, support family-sustaining jobs, and address inequities in our response to climate disruptions
Transform our Energy System to achieve 100% Clean Energy for All by:
Stopping the expansion of the oil and gas industry
Replacing fossil fuels with clean energy
Shifting trillions of public and private dollars from the fossil fuel economy to an economy that is restorative for all.” 


Hundreds unite in Knoxville for ‘Bans Off Our Bodies’ rally. Wes Cooper, WATE Channel 6, June 25.

“While those at the rally continue their fight for abortion rights, they say the new ruling won’t stop people from getting them.
“ ‘My message tonight is really for Knoxvillians to get educated, become aware, and to get out and take action,’ [Tory] Mills said. 
“She added more rallies and other abortion related events are in the works.” 

New Brand of Activist Takes Aim at Ukraine War and Climate Crisis, Together: Led by young women from Eastern Europe, they are cornering Europe’s leaders and pressing them for a total energy embargo on Russia — to end the fighting and to save the planet. Jeffrey Gettleman, The New York Times, June 20. (gift subscription link)

"This is a different brand of activist — young, mostly female and mostly from Eastern Europe — who believes that the Ukraine war is a brutal manifestation of the world’s dependence on fossil fuels.
“ 'These things are connected,' Ms. Thunberg said. 'More and more fossil fuel expansion means more power to autocrats. This enables them to start wars like the one in Ukraine.' ”

Cherokee women seeking name change for Clingmans Dome. Scott McKie B.P., Cherokee One Feather, June 16.

View from Clingmans Dome/Kuwahi. Public domain photo by Jody Clayborn.

“For thousands of years, the area in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park called Clingmans Dome was known to Cherokee people as Kuwahi (‘mulberry place’).  Two Cherokee women are starting a process to change the name back to its roots.
“Lavita Hill and Mary ‘Missy’ Crowe, both members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI), have drafted legislation in the hopes of getting Tribal Council and EBCI Executive Office support for this idea.  The resolution has been submitted, and it is expected to be discussed during the July Tribal Council session.
“Hill commented, ‘We understand that it’s going to be a tedious process and a fight. What this resolution does, it’s not saying ‘grant the name change’, it’s saying ‘support our action as we take the steps to attempt to address the proper channels that we can do this.’ That’s what we’re hoping Tribal Council will read and will see and definitely support.’ ” 

Leaked list: EPA eyes closure plans for 160 coal ash ponds. Hannah Northey, E&E News Greenwire, June 14. 

Site of the TVA Coal Ash Disaster more than three years later. Photo by Appalachian Voices CC BY 2.0.

This list includes 13 coal ash ponds owned by TVA.
“EPA is investigating closure plans for more than 160 unlined lagoons filled with sludge left over from burning coal that could possibly leach toxic pollutants into groundwater, according to a document obtained by E&E News.
“The EPA list — showing facilities from Arizona to New York — raises concerns about contamination of nearby waterways and drinking water supplies and provides a window into the agency’s ongoing crackdown on coal ash, one of the largest sources of water contamination in the country. Coal ash contains contaminants like mercury, cadmium and cancer-causing arsenic.
“EPA in January said such ponds or impoundments, as well as landfills, cannot close if coal ash is in contact with groundwater, a requirement that’s meant to protect nearby communities.
“Coal ash has for decades been a scourge on communities across the nation, drawing national attention in 2008 after a dike on a coal ash pond ruptured at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Kingston, Tenn., power plant, sending more than a billion gallons of toxic sludge into nearby waterways and towns, triggering an avalanche of legal action and sickness.” 

TVA Saves Billions By Choosing Clean Energy: Economic and Emissions Benefits for TVA Customers. Sierra Club Report Release, June 13.

This Sierra Club-commissioned report has been widely reported in the media.
“ ‘Synapse, a well-respected energy analysis firm, finds what we have long believed– TVA can quickly shift coal plants to renewable energy to more fully meet its charter for environmental stewardship and affordable energy for the Tennessee Valley.’ - Amy Kelly, Tennessee Beyond Coal Representative, Sierra Club. 
“The Synapse modeling resulted in the following overarching findings:
Replacement portfolios that rely exclusively on renewables and storage will achieve the same level of reliability as a replacement portfolio that consists largely of combined cycle and combustion turbine replacement capacity.
Both replacement portfolios result in customer savings relative to the Business-As-Usual scenario. The Solar/Storage Replacement scenario saves an estimated $5.8 billion from 2022 to 2042 compared to the BAU, while the Clean Portfolio Replacement saves $8.9 billion.
A resource portfolio that avoids investments in new gas capacity results in greater emissions reductions over the next 20 years and puts TVA on a clear path toward achieving net-zero CO2 emissions in 2050.” 


We won’t give up on justice for the Kingston coal ash workers: 13 years after TVA’s massive ash spill, workers and advocates attend a critical court hearing. Brianna Knisley, Appalachian Voices Front Porch Blog, June 10. 

 “On June 1, more than a dozen Kingston coal ash workers and their families showed up at the Tennessee Supreme Court in Nashville. With them was an incredible showing of faith, labor and environmental justice advocates, many of whom had traveled from across the state after participating in solidarity events in advance of the hearing.
“The group gathered in the lobby for a prayer led by the Rev. Gordon Myers of Memphis. There in spirit were many other workers’ families who were too sick or otherwise unable to attend. Together, they filled every seat of the Tennessee Supreme Courtroom.
“They were there to watch attorneys argue over an appeal that threatens the workers’ ability to seek financial claims for the injuries they sustained while cleaning up toxic coal ash near the Kingston Fossil Plant.
“Workers allege that during the six-year cleanup of the Kingston spill, supervisors told them they could eat a pound of coal ash a day without harm. Supervisors even destroyed respirators and masks that their employees brought to the work site. Since the Kingston coal ash spill in 2008, which was the largest industrial disaster in US history, nearly 60 workers have died and hundreds more are sick.” 

Renewable Energy Credits Allow Companies to Overstate Emissions Reductions: The findings of a new study call into question whether businesses are truly meeting climate goals. Camille Bond, E&E News Climatewire, June 10

“Tradable credits for renewable energy generation are allowing companies to exaggerate their progress toward slashing emissions, according to a new report from Concordia University and the University of Edinburgh Business School.
“Researchers found that most of the reductions in the companies’ reported Scope 2 greenhouse gas emissions — or emissions from purchased energy — were from renewable energy certificates (RECs) during the 2015 to 2019 study period.
“When RECs were removed from their accounting, many of the companies no longer appeared on track to help keep global average warming under 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, they also found. That could have major implications for global efforts to fight climate change, as companies are seen as crucial players in reducing emissions.” 

Carbon Dioxide in Atmosphere Reaches Highest Levels in Millions of Years, NOAA Warns. Paige Bennett, EcoWatch, June 6

 “The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is warning that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is reaching levels not experienced by humans before. Carbon dioxide levels are 50% higher than pre-industrial levels, and the amount of carbon dioxide is higher than it has been in millions of years.
“On June 3, the Mauna Loa Atmospheric Baseline Observator in Hawaii measured a peak carbon dioxide level of 421 parts per million in May, the highest level for 2022 and reaching levels not seen in millions of years.
“ ‘The science is irrefutable: humans are altering our climate in ways that our economy and our infrastructure must adapt to,” NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad said in a press release. ‘We can see the impacts of climate change around us every day. The relentless increase of carbon dioxide measured at Mauna Loa is a stark reminder that we need to take urgent, serious steps to become a more Climate Ready Nation.’ ” 

Tennessee Valley Authority whistleblowers sue agency in federal court. Jamie Satterfield, Tennessee Lookout, June 2. 

“Three former Tennessee Valley Authority nuclear oversight managers who were removed from their posts after alerting the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to repeated safety concerns and violations are now suing the utility in federal court. 
“Melody Babb, Deanna Fultz and Mark Richerson filed suit against TVA late last week in U.S. District Court. They contend they were ousted from their posts in 2019 and targeted for public humiliation in retaliation for their whistleblowing to the NRC and the TVA Office of Inspector General about safety concerns and intimidation of whistleblowers at TVA’s three nuclear power plants.
“ ‘Instead of solving the (safety and intimidation) issues, the focus became stopping the identification of them by the (oversight managers) and attacking the messenger,’ attorneys Doug Hamill and Billie Garde wrote in the lawsuit.
“The lawsuit says TVA not only removed the trio from their positions but also disbanded an independent whistleblowing program known as the Employee Concerns Program and “handpicked” overseers of a new program specifically designed to squelch dissent and intimidate would-be whistleblowers.” 


How to feed the world without destroying it: George Monbiot on the growing global food crisis and the degradation of our soils. Can the solution be found in the lab? Presented by Michael Safi with George Monbiot, The Guardian, June 2.

(Podcast, 31 minutes)
“When farming is degrading our soils and people are still going hungry, is it time to change how we get our food?
“Monbiot tells Michael Safi how we need to start appreciating the wonders of the soil beneath our feet. In his book Regenesis: Feeding the World Without Devouring the Planet (https://guardianbookshop.com/regenesis-9780241447642 ), Monbiot argues we need to pursue revolutionary ways of getting our sustenance. He argues that by using a method called precision fermentation, where proteins and fats are produced in breweries, we could feed the world and save our soils.”
Monboit says 28% of the world’s surface is used for grazing–to produce 1% of our protein. “There is no such thing as sustainable meat produced by farmed livestock.” Organic grazing is far worse. But fermentation breweries would take up “a tiny amount of land … a tiny quantity, really, of just about everything.” 
“If we get this right, we could replace our age of extinction with an age of regenesis. If we get this wrong, we’re committed to extinction.” 


A 50% Reduction in Emissions by 2030 Can be Achieved. Here’s How: Energy analysts pooled their knowledge to provide recommendations to fulfill the United States’ climate pledge. News Release, Aliyah Kovner, Berkeley Lab, June 2.

“A new study by a team of scientists and policy analysts from across the nation suggests that there are multiple pathways to achieve this goal – but big commitments will need to be made, immediately.”

As Senate sits on TVA nominees, Biden’s climate goals wither. Kristi E. Swartz, E&E News Energywire, June 1.

 “The nation’s largest public power utility soon could be operating with less than half of its board, increasing the uncertainty of whether it can help the Biden administration meet its already threatened decarbonization goals.
“The Tennessee Valley Authority is down to five of its nine members at a time when the federal agency is considering dramatic changes to its electricity mix. That number could drop to two by the end of the year if the Senate fails to confirm President Joe Biden’s nominees for the board, who have been waiting more than a year to clear the chamber.
“This means TVA may have to operate without a quorum at a pivotal time, its CEO and clean energy advocates told E&E News recently. The electric utility is weighing a low-carbon future that could include advanced nuclear reactors and is considering replacing coal with natural gas, which has drawn criticism from environmentalists.” 

Coal ash workers’ case heard by Tennessee Supreme Court. Jonathan Matisse, Associated Press, June 1.

“NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee Supreme Court justices fired numerous questions Wednesday at a company that is challenging lawsuits alleging its workers were sickened or died after cleaning up the nation’s worst coal ash spill, which happened more than a decade ago.
“Oral arguments centered on Jacobs Engineering’s contention that the workers’ claims should fall under a Tennessee law that limits legal challenges involving exposure to silica, a component of coal ash.”

Related: As coal ash lawsuit drags on after 10 years, dozens of exposed workers have died. Associated Press via CBS News, May 30. 

Hidden in East Tennessee, crypto capitalists lead modern day rush for electricity to power their virtual mining operations: Cryptocurrency depends on a massive, distributed computer network. Mines have spread across the Southern Appalachians like mushrooms after a rain. Vincent Gabrielle, Knoxville News Sentinel, May 31.

A deep dive into the notoriously noisy and power-squandering crypto mines increasingly exploiting Tennessee’s cheap power and lax regulations, and crypto’s questionable business models. 

Stanford-led research finds small modular reactors will exacerbate challenges of highly radioactive nuclear waste: Small modular reactors, long touted as the future of nuclear energy, will actually generate more radioactive waste than conventional nuclear power plants, according to research from Stanford and the University of British Columbia. Mark Shwartz, Stanford University website, May 30

" 'Our results show that most small modular reactor designs will actually increase the volume of nuclear waste in need of management and disposal, by factors of 2 to 30 for the reactors in our case study,' said study lead author Lindsay Krall, a former MacArthur Postdoctoral Fellow at Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC). 'These findings stand in sharp contrast to the cost and waste reduction benefits that advocates have claimed for advanced nuclear technologies.'
" 'We found that small modular reactors will generate at least nine times more neutron-activated steel than conventional power plants. These radioactive materials have to be carefully managed prior to disposal, which will be expensive.'
"The study also found that the spent nuclear fuel from small modular reactors will be discharged in greater volumes per unit energy extracted and can be far more complex than the spent fuel discharged from existing power plants."
TVA is investing heavily in SMRs, and currently holds the only Nuclear Regulatory Commission Early Site permit in the U.S. for small modular reactor deployment at its Clinch River site near Oak Ridge.  


How an Organized Republican Effort Punishes Companies for Climate Action: Legislators and their allies are running an aggressive campaign that uses public money and the law to pressure businesses they say are pushing “woke” causes. David Gelles and Hiroko Tabuchi, The New York Times, May 27. (gift subscription link) 

“​​Across the country, Republican lawmakers and their allies have launched a campaign to try to rein in what they see as activist companies trying to reduce the greenhouse gasses that are dangerously heating the planet.
“ ‘There is a coordinated effort to chill corporate engagement on these issues,’ said Daniella Ballou-Aares, chief executive of the Leadership Now Project, a nonprofit organization that wants corporations to address threats to democracy.’And it is an effective campaign. Companies are starting to go into hiding.’ ” 

NES board, for the first time ever, comes out against TVA fossil fuel plans. Caroline Eggers, WPLN-FM, May 26.

“The [Nashville Electric Service (NES)] Board said the [Cumberland coal] plant should be replaced with solar energy and battery storage. This option provides clean energy, jobs and would help ensure that Nashville remains ‘competitive with other major American cities.’ ” 

Climate Risk from 'Zombie' Rules, Self-Immolation for the Climate, Mass Shooting and Eco-Facism. Hosted by Steve Curwood, Living on Earth, Public Radio Exchange (PRX), May 20

The Supreme Court's 6-3 conservative majority appears poised to soon strip the EPA of its ability to directly regulate CO2 absent an explicit congressional mandate - from a paralyzed Congress, in a climate emergency - in West Virginia v. EPA, even though the case should be dead since the rule in question, Obama’s Clean Power Plan, was withdrawn. A loss for EPA “could limit climate policies across multiple agencies.” Still, the EPA could indirectly reduce CO2 by regulating other harmful fossil fuel air pollutants and coal ash, based on solid scientific evidence.
“Also, on April 22, Earth Day, Wynn Bruce, a Buddhist and environmental activist, set himself on fire on the steps of the Supreme Court to protest inaction on climate change [and died the next day]. 
“And the suspect of the recent mass murder of Blacks in Buffalo is a self-proclaimed white supremacist and eco-fascist.”

The WMO State of the Global Climate 2021 report: Four key climate change indicators break records in 2021. World Meteorological Organization (WMO) press release, May 18

“Four key climate change indicators – greenhouse gas concentrations, sea level rise, ocean heat and ocean acidification – set new records in 2021. This is yet another clear sign that human activities are causing planetary scale changes on land, in the ocean, and in the atmosphere, with harmful and long-lasting ramifications for sustainable development and ecosystems, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
“Extreme weather – the day-to-day ‘face’ of climate change – led to hundreds of billions of dollars in economic losses and wreaked a heavy toll on human lives and well-being and triggered shocks for food and water security and displacement that have accentuated in 2022.
“The WMO State of the Global Climate in 2021 report confirmed that the past seven years have been the warmest seven years on record. 2021 was ‘only’ one of the seven warmest because of a La Niña event at the start and end of the year. This had a temporary cooling effect but did not reverse the overall trend of rising temperatures. The average global temperature in 2021 was about 1.11 (± 0.13) °C above the pre-industrial level.
“Criticizing ‘the dismal litany of humanity’s failure to tackle climate disruption,’ United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres used the publication of the WMO flagship report to call for urgent action to grab the ‘low-hanging fruit’ of transforming energy systems away from the ‘dead end’ of fossil fuels to renewable energy.
“In a video message, Mr. Guterres proposed five critical actions to jump-start the renewable energy transition. They include greater access to renewable energy technology and supplies, a tripling of private and public investments in renewables and an end to subsidies on fossil fuels which amount to roughly $11 million per minute.”

Read about other events in Tennessee in our Chapter e-newsletters.

*** A democracy with informed citizens requires the professionalism that we have historically expected of credible news sources. Most “local" newspapers today are asking folks who access their online news stories to purchase a subscription to their paper. This is understandable generally, and reminds us that we should do our part to pay for the resources that result in publication of local news. Those of us who use summaries of published print news, as we do, are no exception, and we ask the same of our readers. However, we also believe that a person who only wants to see an occasional article published in a newspaper should not be required to subscribe. So if you believe that you are in the latter category - only an occasional reader - you may be able to read an article without a subscription if you "browse anonymously" or clear your browser cache before activating a link to an article. This may help you avoid many "pay walls" at these news sources (some sources restrict access even with anonymous settings). Another approach is to search for alternate source on the particular news item. But we recommend that our readers who find themselves accessing an online news source on a regular basis subscribe to an online version of the paper, which is generally much cheaper than a  print version.

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