Mumpower seeks to end DEC investigations spurred by anonymous tips

Hank Hayes • Jan 15, 2008 at 12:00 AM

Tennessee House GOP Leader Jason Mumpower has introduced legislation that would prohibit the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) from undertaking investigations or enforcement actions based solely on tips from anonymous sources.

The Bristol Republican said Tuesday the bill stems from a dispute involving adjoining landowners in Johnson County’s Shady Valley — which is in his 3rd House District.

The legislation would not prohibit the department from taking action deemed necessary in the case of imminent danger to human health and safety.

“Certainly we’re going to take all measures to be sure that people aren’t able to dump anything toxic, but I don’t think it’s too much to ask to allow the Department of Environment to know who is making the complaint,” Mumpower said of the bill.

Currently, the nearest DEC Environmental Field Office is the public’s starting point for any environmental question, concern or complaint, according to the department. In Northeast Tennessee, that field office is in Johnson City.

“Environment and Conservation requires that any individual who wishes to make a complaint state the nature of his or her complaint and provide a location for us to investigate,” DEC Communications Director Tisha Calabrese-Benton said in an e-mail. “... We investigate all complaints that concern areas where Environment and Conservation has regulatory authority. After investigations are complete, our environmental specialists contact those individuals who chose to provide contact information with their findings.”

Mumpower’s bill calls for DEC to create a form on its Web site to report environmental violations.

He also pointed out that unrelated to the bill, a “bit of a fight has been brewing” between the Nature Conservancy and Shady Valley Watershed Authority over land control issues in the area.

“You have residents there on the side of the Nature Conservancy and residents on the side of the watershed district,” he explained. “On both sides, people have anonymously reported grievances that may or may not have merit.”

The bill currently does not have a sponsor in the Senate.

For more information, go to www.tennessee.gov/environment or www.legislature.state.tn.us and click on “Legislation.” The bill’s number is HB 2511.

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