On March 3, Ed Marcum at the Knoxville News Sentinel did a front-page story on the case that was picked up by USA Today Network.
Archive for month: March, 2017
In response to the lawsuit, TVA has announced that it is going to publish an environmental impact statement that will address changes to its vegetation management policy, including a “border to border” approach by which it would clear the entire right-of-way, including the historic buffer zones, which include vast numbers of 50-100-year-old trees. The Plaintiffs earlier submitted their comments on the scope of the EIS [2017-03-18 Comment on scope of EIS, and yesterday submitted a supplemental comment. 2017-03-22 Supplemental Comment on scope of EIS Also yesterday, the Tennessee Chapter of the Sierra Club submitted its comment on the scope of TVA’s proposed environmental impact statement on its vegetation management program. 2017-03-22 Sierra Club EIS comment
The key thing to realize is that unless there is sustained and widespread opposition, TVA will likely adopt the border-to-border approach and destroy all of the trees in the right-of-way. If you own property on the right-of-way, or know someone who does, now would be a good time to get involved. Go to the TVA Trees Facebook page. Today is the last day to comment on the scope of the EIS but there will be other opportunities to comment, including public meetins all over the TVA region.
Yesterday we filed the Plaintiffs’ response to TVA’s confession of judgment and motion for judgment in favor of the Plaintiffs. 2017-03-23 Doc. 386 Plaintiffs’ Response to TVA’s Motion for Judgment in Plaintiffs’ Favor We, of course, agree that judgment should be entered in favor of the Plaintiffs, but we think that it should go further than what TVA offered. We think that the injunction should not only enjoin TVA from further implementing its new practice known as the 15-foot rule, but should also order TVA to revert to its prior practices, and define what those prior practices were. The prior practices included leaving the buffer zones, generally 25 feet on the edges of the right-of-way that was left in its natural state, including vast numbers of 50-100-year old trees. Under the 15-foot-rule, also called the right-of-way widening initiative, or “reclaiming” the full width of the right-of-way, TVA was systematically clearing the buffer zones, destroying millions of trees on thousands of miles of right-of-way, and doing so straight through wildlife nesting season, indiscriminately killing probably hundreds of thousands of baby birds and wildlife of all descriptions.
Here is why we think the injunction should go further than what TVA has proposed: The lawsuit forced TVA to advise the Court that it had suspended the 15-foot rule and reverted to its prior practices. But after so advising the Court, TVA simply continued clearing the buffer zones. We proved this by aerial video at Land Between the Lakes where TVA cleared 31 miles of buffer zones right after it told the Court that it had suspended the 15-foot rule and reverted to its prior practices. As we stated in our Response, “Either TVA is misrepresenting itself to the Court, and simply continuing with the 15-foot rule, or it is using ‘lawyer gyrations’ to concoct a remarkable definition of the 15-foot rule, a definition that would somehow allow it to cut down the same trees either with or without the 15-foot rule.”
So simply ordering TVA not to further implement the 15-foot rule is not enough. We also need to order TVA to revert to its prior practices, and define what those practices are, including leaving the buffer zones and allowing landowners to trim their own trees.
Interesting development yesterday. TVA, the defendant in the case, filed a “Confession of Judgment in Plaintiffs’ Favor” 2017-03-01 Doc. 377 Confession of Judgment in Plaintiffs’ Favor and a “Motion for Judgment in Plaintiffs’ Favor.” 2017-03-01 Doc. 378 Motion for Judgment in Plaintiffs’ Favor. They also filed a supporting brief. 2017-03-01 Doc. 379 Brief in Support of TVA’s Motion for Judgment in Plaintiffs’ Favor. A little unusual to ask for judgment to be entered in favor of the opposing party. It was an official surrender. It is what TVA should have done five years ago, at the beginning of the case. We arrive at this point after two appeals to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati. TVA lost both appeals. So yesterday, TVA filed papers consenting to the entry of a judgment enjoining itself from further implementing the 15-foot rule until it publishes an appropriate environmental impact statement.
Although it looks like a complete surrender, there is a possible catch. The other side of the coin for ending the 15-foot rule is that TVA must revert to its prior practices, that is, the practices that it followed prior to the 15-foot rule. Those practices included leaving the buffer zones, and allowing landowners to trim their own trees. After assuring the Court at an earlier stage of the litigation (an assurance that continues to this day), that it had suspended the 15-foot rule, and reverted to its prior practices, TVA proceeded to wipe out the buffer zones at Land Between the Lakes from one end to the other, destroying vast numbers of 40-100-year-old trees that had been left under TVA’s prior practices. It also wiped out Billy Anderson’s orchard in Paducah, Kentucky, which he had tended under the wires for more than 30 years under TVA’s prior practices, always keeping his fruit and nut trees pruned to no more than 17 feet tall. These appear to be violations of TVA’s assurance to the Court that it had suspended the 15-foot rule and reverted to its prior practices. So the concern with TVA’s confession of judgment is that, having consented to a judgment enjoining itself from further implementing the 15-foot rule, it might simply continue eliminating the buffer zones like it did at Land Between the Lakes and Tellico Dam, and destroying the trees of people like Mr. Anderson, just as it has done for the last five years.
If you have have information that TVA is continuing to destroy the buffer zones or other trees that it allowed under its prior practices you are invited to post your information or experience at http://www.facebook.com/tvatrees [TVA Trees@tvatrees]