News | March 21, 2016

Tennessee threatening to undo stormwater protections

As more and more people call Tennessee home, communities around the state are experiencing unprecedented development. Between 1982 and 2007, the number of developed acres across Tennessee increased 85 percent. With this development comes more rooftops, roads, parking lots, and the increase in stormwater run off that accompanies them.

This known increase in stormwater quantity across Tennessee makes two recent efforts to decrease the quality of state stormwater management all the more troubling. Stormwater collects pesticides, gasoline, sediment, and other pollutants and then travels, untreated, into our streams and rivers, often increasing the costs of later purifying that same water for public consumption.

Just this week, the Tennessee Senate Committee on Energy, Agriculture, and Natural Resources voted to move forward legislation advanced by representatives from home builders’ lobby designed to remove many of the key protections in the state stormwater management permit issued in 2010. This parallels a similar bill making its way through the Tennessee House of Representatives.

Simultaneously, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) is floating a new general stormwater permit for public comment. The home builders may challenge this permit directly, too. We are concerned by efforts to lower one group’s expenses at a greater cost to communities and the environment. We are also concerned by efforts pursue legislation that will circumvent regulatory oversight and create uncertainty for those communities that have already invested in stormwater management.  

In an effort to stop this slide toward dirtier water, SELC will be tracking legislative proposals and will submit comments on the proposed TDEC permit to prevent rollbacks on behalf of our partners.