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NEWS & FEUDS
ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
The Smoggy Mountain State
There were a record setting 52 days last summer when breathing air in Smoky Mountain National Park was bad for you. Elevated ozone levels in the park and all over the high country of the Southern Appalachians are created by excess emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. Exhaust from automobiles does some damage, but the culprit with the most smoke stacks is clearly the Tennessee Valley Authority.
In November, the U.S. Justice Department ordered the TVA to clean up seven of its aging and excessively polluting coal-fired power plants. The order could cost the TVA more than $1 billion, so if the clean-up ever takes place, the cost of electricity in East Tennessee will likely increase; TVA's challenging the order.
Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency is considering a crack down on Knox and 13 other counties in Tennessee for violating the agency's new regulations for ozone. This past summer, Knoxville mimicked Great Smoky Mountains National Park by registering record-setting ozone levels, with the worst occurring in mid-August. By next July, the EPA says it could declare Knoxville a "non-attainment" area, meaning its ozone levels violate the federal Clean Air Act. In 1997, the EPA tightened its air quality standards, and the new rules are currently tied up in a lawsuit brought by several air polluting industries.
Forest Sustainability Study Underway
The fears and claims of environmentalists that forest systems are being severely damaged by pulp mills, suburban sprawl, and pollution are finally getting serious consideration in the Southeast. Four federal agenciesU.S. Forest Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Fish and Wildlife Service and TVAstarted a two-year study this summer to look at how forests in 13 southeastern states (as far north as Virginia, as far west as Texas) are being affected. Regulators are looking at five areas: landscapes/ terrestrial ecosystems; social/ economic factors; timber markets and forest management; forest extent, conditions, and health; watersheds, aquatic/ riparian ecosystems, and forested wetlands.