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Water enforcement dropped in business-friendly Haslam administration

Posted on 06 April 2018 by admin (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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