Vanderbilt Law Review

First Page



Tennessee's new Water Quality Control Act' is one of the most significant pieces of environmental legislation to be produced in recent years. It is destined not only to revamp water pollution control in Tennessee but also to serve as a model for legislation in other states. The Act and commentary written by its drafter, Professor Frank E. Maloney, are printed following this article. Consequently, no attempt will be made to summarize the entire Act or to provide a detailed guide for its use. The purpose of this introductory article is to examine the salient, often innovative, features of the Act and to comment on its efficacy both as the basic law for Tennessee and as a model for other jurisdictions. The most striking feature of the Act is its recognition of the public trust doctrine by the following language in section 2: "Recognizing that the waters of the State of Tennessee are the property of the state and are held in public trust for the use of the people of the state, it is declared to be the public policy of the state of Tennessee that the people of Tennessee as beneficiaries of this trust have a right to unpolluted waters.'' Although references to this concept may be found in the legislation of other states, the Tennessee Act is the first to adopt it expressly. The importance of this enactment of the public trust doctrine as positive law cannot be over stressed, and one should beware of treating section 2 of the Act as nothing more than a declaration of policy and purpose. This provision alone establishes the Act as a model for other jurisdictions.