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Water enforcement dropped in business-friendly Haslam administration

Posted on 06 April 2018 (0)
Mike Brown / USAT Network

Mike Brown / USAT Network

Year after year, the inspectors found the same violations. Norfolk Southern Railway, they noted, allowed construction dirt to wash into tributaries of the Wolf River, a hunting source for bald eagles that flows from northern Mississippi to Memphis.

The railroad had graded much of 380 acres of farmland, exposing tan earth before paving the way for the Memphis Regional Intermodal Facility. With state-of-the-art cranes, the terminal would allow Norfolk Southern to rapidly transfer cargo containers from trains to trucks. Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, shovel in hand, posed at the 2011 groundbreaking and hailed the potential transportation jobs.

That same year — Haslam’s first in office — his administration began reshaping the state Department of Environment and Conservation to be more “customer focused.” Haslam’s hand-picked commissioner merged the three water protection divisions into one, shed a quarter of their positions, and nearly stopped penalizing polluters. The agency prided itself on helping companies comply with the law before resorting to fines.

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Sempra facility a major polluter long before gas leak

Posted on 25 February 2016 (0)
Map by Mike Reicher

Map by Mike Reicher

Even before a catastrophic well failure turned Aliso Canyon into an international greenhouse-gas pariah, the natural gas storage facility was one of the industry’s worst climate polluters. Carbon dioxide flowed from its heavy machinery, and methane seeped from valves and equipment.

Only two other underground fields in the United States discharged more greenhouse gases in 2014, according to an analysis of the most recent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data.

As Porter Ranch residents prepare to return home and regulators tighten well-safety rules, the long-term environmental costs of storing pressurized gas remain.

The facility in the hills above the San Fernando Valley emitted 206,268 combined tons of natural gas, carbon dioxide and other pollutants in 2014, roughly the same amount as 43,000 cars driven for a year.

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Greenhouse Gas Emissions Interactive Map