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The Snail Darter Case

TVA Versus the Endangered Species Act

Kenneth M. Murchison (author)

ISBN: 9780700615049

Publication Date: Mar 2007

Format: Hardback

Also available as: Paperback  

The 1978 decision in TVA v Hill, the Court's first decision interpreting the Endangered Species Act, remains one of the most instructive cases in American environmental law. This work reveals that the snail darter case was just one part of a long struggle over whether the TVA should build the Tellico Dam.
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With the discovery of a tiny fish in a soon-to-be-flooded stretch of the Little Tennessee River, construction on a dam that had already cost taxpayers $100 million came crashing to a halt. Thanks to the Endangered Species Act of 1973, the snail darter was instantly transformed into both an icon for species preservation and a despised symbol of the environmental movement's alleged excesses. The intense legal battle that ensued over its fate was contested all the way to the Supreme Court. The 1978 decision in TVA v. Hill, the Court's first decision interpreting the Endangered Species Act, remains one of the most instructive cases in American environmental law. Affirming an injunction that prohibited the Tennessee Valley Authority from completing the Tellico Dam because it would eliminate the snail darter's only known habitat, the Supreme Court resolved an intragovernmental dispute between the TVA and the Interior Department as well as the claims of the local opponents of the dam. Kenneth Murchison reveals that the snail darter case was just one part of a long struggle over whether the TVA should build the Tellico Dam. He traces disputes over the TVA's mission back to the 1930s and intertwines this with the emergence of federal environmental law in the 1960s and 1970s, culminating in the National Environmental Policy Act and Endangered Species Act, both of which provided a statutory basis for litigating against the dam builders. He continues with an exhaustive analysis of the arguments, deliberations, and decision of the Supreme Court, based largely on original sources, before concluding with a summary of the subsequent congressional actions and administrative proceedings that ultimately allowed the dam's completion. By plumbing the Court's deliberations, the politics behind the law, and the way that law spurred political responses, Murchison clarifies how the story of darter and dam came to exemplify the tensions and conflict between legislative and judicial action. Even though its players were left with only partial victories, TVA v. Hill helped to define the modern role of the TVA and remains an important chapter in the development of federal environmental law. Murchison helps us better understand this landmark decision, which drew the battle lines for current debates over the environment and the policies that protect or regulate its use.

Reviews

Murchison's insightful study provides a revealing look at one of the U.S. Supreme Court's most important environmental decisions and a milestone in late twentieth-century conservation politics. Jeffrey K. Stine, author of Mixing the Waters: Environment, Politics, and the Building of the Tennessee- Tombigbee Waterway "I lived the legal saga of the snail darter for six years, and so understand better than most just how effectively Murchison has explored and analyzed that case's remarkably complex and shifting agglomeration of law, politics, institutional history, and environmental consciousness. The book is an impressive accomplishment." Zygmunt Plater, coauthor of Environmental Law and Policy: Nature, Law, and Society, and Petitioner and attorney in the snail darter case
Pages 240
Date Published 1 Mar 2007
Publisher University Press of Kansas
Series Landmark Law Cases and American Society
Subject/s Social & cultural history   Legal history   Conservation of the environment  
Kenneth M. Murchison is James E. and Betty M. Phillips Professor of Law at Louisiana State University and author of Federal Criminal Law Doctrines: The Forgotten Influence of National Prohibition.

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