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Judge sides with TVA over tree-cutting lawsuit

10:55 PM, Jul 29, 2013   |    comments
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(WBIR - Knoxville) Some tall trees will soon be coming down in West Knoxville after a federal judge sided with TVA in a controversial case.

In April of 2012, two residents from the Westminster Place subdivision in West Knoxville challenged TVA over its vegetation policy. That policy allows TVA to cut down mature trees, taller than 15 feet, underneath the right-of-way of their powerlines.

The plaintiffs argued TVA violated the rules of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) because it did not conduct an environmental impact study prior to developing the vegetation policy.

Those plaintiffs had hoped their lawsuit would bring a stop to TVA's tree-cutting practice. But, July 23, United States District Court Judge Thomas Varlan found otherwise and sided with TVA.

He dismissed the case on the grounds TVA had followed the rules of NEPA.

Tom Wainner is the president of the Westminter Place Homeowners' Association (WPHOA). He said WPHOA did not take part in the case because of the massive legal presence TVA has.

However, Wainner did say he was worried that TVA would drastically alter the face of his neighborhood.

"I think it will look like somebody came through and tore a swath through the neighborhood," he said.

TVA said some of the trees have to come down in the area so it can inspect power lines that may be obstructed.

A spokesperson gave 10News this statement Monday afternoon.

"Earlier this year, the court also upheld TVA's right to cut trees and remove vegetation within previously purchased easements," the statement reads. "These rulings support TVA's ability to continue providing safe, reliable, and low cost power to its customers."

TVA said some endangered species of trees and shrubs will be spared. But, it added that it still plans to cut down trees in the area of Westminster Place at an undetermined date.

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