Official: Water complaints could be ‘act of terrorism’ by Brian Haas, The Tennessean, June 21, 2013, USA Today
Residents who say children have become ill from drinking water says state is attempting to silence its critics. A Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation deputy director warned a group of Maury County residents that unfounded complaints about water quality could be considered an “act of terrorism.” “We take water quality very seriously. Very, very seriously,” said Sherwin Smith, deputy director of TDEC’s Division of Water Resources, according to audio recorded by attendees. “But you need to make sure that when you make water quality complaints you have a basis, because federally, if there’s no water quality issues, that can be considered under Homeland Security an act of terrorism.”
“Can you say that again, please?” an audience member can be heard asking on the audio.
Smith went on in the recording to repeat the claim almost verbatim. The audio was recorded May 29 by Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment, a Smyrna-based civic action group that had been working with Maury County residents to tackle water quality complaints in Mount Pleasant. Residents there have complained to the state for months, saying some children had become ill drinking the water. The meeting was organized by State Rep. Sheila Butt, R-Columbia, and attended by residents, TDEC and local officials. TDEC said it was looking into what had been said at the meeting and that Smith would not be available for comment. “In terms of the comments made by a member of the Water Resources Division at the meeting, we are just receiving the information and looking into this on our end,” spokeswoman Meg Lockhart said. “The department would like to fully assess what was said in the meeting. I am told that the meeting was far longer than the audio clip provided by SOCM and that Mr. Smith actually clarified his remarks. But again, we are looking into it.”
“You need to make sure that when you make water quality complaints you have a basis, because federally, if there’s no water quality issues, that can be considered under Homeland Security an act of terrorism.”
— Sherwin Smith, a A Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation deputy director
The comment shocked and outraged attendees, who saw it as an attempt to silence complaints, said Brad Wright, organizer for SOCM in Middle Tennessee. “I think it’s just to quash us complicating life for them,” he said. … “I was sitting there with my mouth open,” she said. “I couldn’t believe he was saying that.” The message she took away was: “Leave us alone. Don’t come back anymore. We’re not going to continue on dealing with whatever problem you may have.” Butt, who organized the meeting, also was shocked. “I think that we need to be very careful with how we use the words ‘terrorist’ and ‘terrorism,’ “ she said. “I thought it was out of context. That did not apply to anything that we were discussing at the meeting.” [Emphasis added]
[Refer also to:
The ERCB legal defense brief also portrays Ernst as an “ecoterrorist” and says it ceased all communication with her out of concern of violence in  after Ernst made an offhand comment about “the Wiebo Way.”
Wiebo Ludwig was a northern Alberta landowner who orchestrated a unprecedented campaign of industrial sabotage against the oil and gas industry in the late 1990s after five years of civil complaints and little regulatory response. Since then hundreds of landowners in Alberta and British Columbia have made comments about “the Wiebo Way.”
A legal brief submitted by Ernst’s lawyers argue that the ERCB’s allegations are not supported by public evidence and amount to character assassination.
A transcript of a taped conversation with an ERCB lawyer read and heard by this reporter seems to contradict the contents of this ERCB brief. In 2006 a board lawyer admitted to Ernst and a witness that the agency had no real safety concerns with Ernst, but disliked her public criticism of the board because it had become “humiliating.”
“The ERCB takes the prejudicial, vexatious, unsupported and wholly unsupportable position that the ‘expression’ the Plaintiff seeks to protect was a ‘threat of violence’ and that the ERCB ceased communication with Ms. Ernst ‘in order to protect its staff, the Alberta public and the Alberta oil and gas industry from further acts of eco-terrorism.’This is a prejudicial and irresponsible accusation that is entirely without foundation.” [Emphasis added]