TVA v. Hill, often noted for its importance in shaping environmental law, is also a key case in statutory interpretation law. The case involves the conflict between finishing the Tellico Dam and Reservoir, a project of the Tennessee Valley Authority that many characterized as pork barrel spending, and protecting the habitat of the rare snail darter fish. Although the Supreme Court’s decision halted construction of the nearly finished dam, Congress subsequently passed legislation ordering completion of the reservoir project. Drawing on key legislative materials and judicial documents, Professor Garrett shows how this case illuminates the interactions among the three branches of government on a question of statutory interpretation. Participants in all branches of government were keenly aware of the involvement of the other governmental actors and made their decisions in light of expected reactions by others. This chapter traces the Tennessee Valley Authority’s decision to build the Tellico Dam and the years of congressional attention to the project through the annual appropriations process; details the litigation brought to stop the dam by a law professor and his students; and analyzes legislative reactions to the Supreme Court decision interpreting the Endangered Species Act to protect the snail darter’s habitat. The story of TVA v. Hill illustrates that, despite internal rules discouraging appropriations riders and the judicial canon disfavoring such provisions, Congress can achieve its purposes by passing a clearly worded provision within the text of annual appropriations bills.
Environmental Law | Law and Politics | Legislation
Date of this Version
Elizabeth Garrett, "The Story of TVA v. Hill: Congress Has the Last Word" (November 2009). University of Southern California Legal Studies Working Paper Series. Working Paper 54.