The Environmental Journal of Southern Appalachia

Wolf Naegeli

ELOlogoELO is a student-run organization at the University of Tennessee College of Law. It is not directly affiliated with the University of Tennesse or any particular non-profit organization. It is dedicated to providing students and attorneys with learning opportunities and leadership experiences.

Networking environmental leaders across Appalachia and the State of Tennessee

Knoxville — APIEL is a relative newcomer to the small circle of inclusive U.S. public interest environmental law conferences. Because it is organized by law school student volunteers, APIEL is affordable to attend for citizens from all walks of life. Students are free!

APIEL is much loved and considered essential by regional nonprofit leaders and activists. It is also highly acclaimed by seasoned environmental lawyers. With just 13 conferences under its belt, APIEL has risen to rank among leading peer conferences with a much longer track record, such as the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference (PIELC) at the University of Oregon School of Law (41 events), the Red Clay Conference at the University of Georgia School of Law (35) and the Public Interest Environmental Conference (PIEC) at the University of Florida’s Levin College of Law (29).

K 25 overlookThe neighborhoods of The Preserve are a mere 1.5 mi away from the end of the proposed runway. Project location, scale and dimensions superimposed on this Google Earth snapshot are approximate; for illustration purposes only. Please ignore the eye altitude indicated. That value depends very much on the size of your screen. It gets updated only when viewing a scene in the live Google Earth app.  If you were sitting in an airplane — approaching the airport on the 3-degree glidepath shown here in yellow — you would pass barely more than 500 feet above these homes. During ascent (facing this point of view) many of the planes could already be higher above The Preserve, but because running their engines at full throttle, emissions would be more perceptible and concerning.

How would the airport project affect livability and property values?

OAK RIDGE — For the past three decades, the City of Oak Ridge has been complaining that most who get hired to work in Oak Ridge prefer to live in Knoxville or Farragut. Low population growth and few new home starts did not make up for increasing costs of city services. A considerable amount of city-budget increases, however, were a consequence of poor decisions, driven by wishful thinking. The payback of grandiose plans that had no solid economic foundation was measly, if not lacking for years and ever more years. The underutilized Parcel A Centennial Golf Course and Horizon Center are particularly memorable examples.

Some of our readers may also remember the scandal when DOE sold a strip of riverfront property near Brashear Island on the Clinch at a price of $54 per acre — drastically below fair market value. That  incidence was related in a roundabout way to another so-called “self-sufficiency parcel,” Parcel E. The latter was sold to the City in 1987 for transfer to the Boeing Company, which planned to build an industrial facility. The project never materialized.

Runway centerline (red) of proposed Oak Ridge Airport at Heritage CenterRunway centerline (red) of proposed Oak Ridge Airport at Heritage Center. P1 Pond, a certified habitat for rare birds would be filled in. Planes would pass very close by the George Jones Memorial Baptist Church as well as the former K-25/East Tennessee Technology Park Visitors Overlook and the slave cemetery. Public greenways & trails are shown in purple.

Desperate necessity or boondoggle in the making?

OAK RIDGE — The City of Oak Ridge will conduct a public hearing at the Double Tree Hotel, August 8, 2023 from 6 to 8 P.M. EDT on the Oak Ridge Airport Environmental Assessment, as required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

The Foundation for Global Sustainability (FGS) believes that a full environmental impact statement would be required under NEPA if the City of Oak Ridge wants to use Federal funding to build an airport here. The provided Environmental Assessment is mistaken in declaring that the project will have “no significant impact.”

Please check back here often as we will update this article with more information on important issues over the coming week.

Comments submitted to the Federal Aviation Administration by Advocates for the Oak Ridge Reservation

(Updated: Inadvertently we had included bullet points from a draft of the expanded and mailed letter.)

AFORR recognizes general aviation (GA) airports are a big part of the US national economy and understands that they can be justified for a local economy. However, in the specific instance of a proposed GA airport in Oak Ridge, we believe there are no compelling merits, needs, or justifications for such an airport. The following points support our position that the development of an Oak Ridge airport is not warranted or needed.

— There is no defensible need for the airport. Oak Ridge has convenient access to three modern airports serving general aviation — DKX, RKW, & TYS. The proposed airport location in Oak Ridge does not meet one of the key FAA entry criteria for a new GA airport. It is a 25-minute ground travel time from the proposed Oak Ridge airport site to the Rockwood Municipal Airport (RKW). FAA Order5090.3C Chapter 2 Entry Criteria requires a new GA airport to be 30 minutes or more average ground travel time from the nearest airport under the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems.

Advance Knox landscape logo blue

If you care about growth and transportation in Knox County, attend one of these meetings to share your ideas and express your opinions.

This article was updated on March 27 with first impressions from the March 27 meeting.

KNOXVILLE — Based on previous public input and data analysis, the Advance Knox project team has developed a list of proposed transportation projects that will accompany a future land use plan.

Advance Knox is an effort to define a vision and create a plan that will guide growth, land use, transportation, economic prosperity and quality of life in Knox County for years to come.

This is the first time the County has created an integrated land use and transportation plan, that is billed as having “the potential to be transformative.”

“Bringing land use and transportation components together is what will set this plan up for success,” said Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs. “Our teams are eager to hear community feedback and move toward adopting a final plan.”

Will this plan result in the transformation that you hope for?

Now is the time for you to check that it meets your needs, expectations and wishes. Or, to argue for better solutions by participating in this process.

Priorities Week is the third and final round of Advance Knox community outreach! 

Tuesday, 25 October 2022 22:59

Beavers mitigate forest fires

beaver gc2f524423 1280European Beaver  Image by Ralf Schick from Pixabay

NPR: California enlists beavers in battle against climate change

Forest areas with beaver dams are less prone to severe fire damage because of more consistent soil moisture and less extreme air aridity and temperature conditions. Read about it or listen to Randy Simon’s 2-minute beaver podcast on National Public Radio’s Earth Wise web page.

Advance Knox Choices WeekAdvance Knox proposes three growth scenarios for the future of the unincorporated areas of Knox County.

If you missed the community meetings and the Zoom event during Advance Knox’s “Choices Week,” you can still take the survey online!

If you are unfamiliar with the Advance Knox project, you may find it helpful to watch the first 19 minutes of the Choices Week webinar recording before taking the survey.

Advance Knox is a process to prepare a land use and transportation plan for Knox County that is informed by research and community input,” according to its website.

In March 2022, Advance Knox offered a first round of public input opportunities during its “Ideas Week.”  As reported in Hellbender Press, community meetings were held all over the county. Participation opportunities at special group presentations, a Zoom webinar, and individual commenting on the website were similar to those of Choices Week.

VIENNA — Leonore Gewessler, Austria’s energy and climate minister announced that she would take the case to the European Court of Justice if the union’s executive proceeds with plans to include nuclear and natural gas in the EU taxonomy of sustainable finance.

About gas, Gewessler said that it releases unconscionable amounts of greenhouse gases. “Just because something is less bad than coal doesn’t make it good or sustainable.”

Regarding nuclear energy she said it has unpredictably high risks, referring to Chernobyl and Fukushima. She also mentioned as great concerns, the safe disposal of spent nuclear fuel and lack of a global solution for its final storage.

ELOlogoELO is a student-run organization at the University of Tennessee College of Law. It is not directly affiliated with the University of Tennesse or any particular non-profit organization. It is dedicated to providing students and attorneys with learning opportunities and leadership experiences.

Networking environmental leaders across Appalachia and the State of Tennessee

Knoxville — APIEL is a relative newcomer to the small circle of inclusive U.S. public interest environmental law conferences. Because it is organized by law school student volunteers, APIEL is affordable to attend for students as well as citizens from all walks of life.

APIEL is much loved and considered essential by regional nonprofit leaders and activists. It is also highly acclaimed by seasoned environmental lawyers. With just 12 conferences under its belt, APIEL has risen to rank among leading peer conferences with a much longer track record, such as the  Public Interest Environmental Law Conference (PIELC) at the University of Oregon School of Law (39 events), the Red Clay Conference at the University of Georgia School of Law (34) and the Public Interest Environmental Conference (PIEC) at the University of Florida’s Levin College of Law (28).

Knox County Commission finalizes action to limit citizen rights to oppose developments.

KNOXVILLE — County Commission passed on second reading Monday an amendment to the county’s process for appealing Planning Commission decisions, according to Compass.

Hellbender’s initial story and updates follow:

“The revised measure passed on first reading with seven out of 11 votes, but Commission Chair Richie Beeler said his support was soft and he would need to be persuaded to vote for it a second time next month. If approved, the ordinance would give developers the option to have appeals of their plans heard by the BZA or in Chancery Court,” Compass reported.

Residents and developers who do not agree with a decision of the Knoxville-Knox County Planning Commission to permit or deny a land use that is somewhat unusual for their neighborhood can appeal to the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA). If their appeal is denied they may further appeal to the City Council, and as a last resort to the Circuit Court.

Knox County residents and developers, however, are not allowed to appeal to County Commission if the county BZA denies their appeal. For a second reconsideration, they must directly go to court, which tends to be prohibitively expensive for many.

Now County Mayor Jacobs and most county commissioners want to take away the option to appeal to the BZA for such projects outside the city limits, leaving the Circuit Court as the one and only way to have concerns reconsidered.

Published in News

OAK RIDGE — WBIR channel 10 News 2-minute video highlighting a controversy that has been brewing for a decade.

Infographics and more details added May 5, 2022

Tree clearing would radically degrade the visual experience and take away shade crucial to enjoyment of a walk during increasingly hot weather

On April 4, TRISO-X LLC, a subsidiary incorporated last August by X-Energy LLC, disclosed plans to build a plant at Horizon Center to manufacture a new kind of “unmeltable” tri-structural isotropic nuclear fuel (TRISO) for high-temperature pebble-bed gas reactors. It will use uranium, enriched to less than 20 percent, to fabricate spherical, billiards-ball sized High-Assay Low-Enriched Uranium (HALEU) pebbles.

Horizon Center,

situated among sensitive natural areas, was designed as an upscale light-industrial and office park. Despite its fancy landscaping with sculpture gardens, it failed to attract the many buyers that had been anticipated when it was created a quarter century ago. A principal argument for its establishment was that Oak Ridge needed to attract more private enterprise to reduce dependency on Federal jobs.

Terragenics’ $38 million plant, which was built to manufacture implantable radioactive pellets to treat prostate cancer never went into full production and was abandoned in 2005. 2015, with Governor Haslam in attendance, Canadian CVMR promised 620 jobs, using the plant for it’s first U.S. production site and to move its headquarters to it from Toronto, too.

Page 1 of 2