Senate Committee Misses Historic Opportunity to Protect Tennessee Mountains
The Tennessee Scenic Vistas Protection Act, introduced by State Sen. Eric Stewart (D-14), was designed to stop surface coal mining that alters or disturbs a ridgeline over 2,000 feet of elevation, effectively banning mountaintop removal coal mining in the state.
On Wed., Feb. 29 the State Senate Energy and Environment committee voted 8-1 to approve an amendment that gutted the bill. The amendment changed the definition of mountaintop removal coal mining to exclude all except the most extreme cases from falling under the “prohibited” category as defined by the original bill.
The Tennessee Director of Appalachian Voices, J.W. Randolph, commented:
“In a disappointing move for the Tennessee mountains, special interests in the Tennessee Senate voted today to allow the continued devastation of the state’s scenic peaks and cultural heritage. The amendments to the Scenic Vistas Protection Act removed the original language of the bill and replaced it with a definition that will essentially do nothing to protect the citizens of Tennessee. But, as state Sen. Eric Stewart said, this bill will be back every year until Tennessee mountains are protected.
"Tennesseans won’t be fooled by smokescreens and are not concerned by technical definitions of mountaintop removal coal mining. They want to see the destruction of their mountains stopped. The political power of the coal industry in Tennessee has long outlived its ability to create jobs or prosperity in the region. Coal mining actually costs Tennessee taxpayers a net loss of $3 million a year, while the state’s mountain-based tourism industry employs 175,000 people and brings in more than $13 billion to Tennessee annually.
"The Tennessee legislature has passed on a historic opportunity to stop the destruction of its mountains and cultural heritage. Citizen advocates and folks in the grassroots who want to protect the mountains will take this fight to the Senate floor to ensure that this bill that Tennesseans have been clamoring to pass is meaningful in protecting Appalachian mountains and communities.”
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