The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
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.”
For more information, click here.
The Tennessee Scenic Vistas Protection Act, which could make Tennessee the first state to put a ban on high-elevation surface mining techniques such as mountaintop removal, faces an important hurdle this Wednesday, Feb. 29, in the Senate Environment Committee. We expect the vote to be very close, so it's all hands on deck in moving these legislators to do the right thing.
Below is a list of the senators who sit on the Environment Committee. Call them and let them know you support the Scenic Vistas Protection Act, and want to vote “YES.” Learn more about our work to pass the Scenic Vistas bill by clicking here.
Senate Environment Committee
Sen. Steve Southerland, chair: Phone (615) 741-3851
Sen. Jack Johnson, vice-chair: Phone (615) 741-2495
Sen. Jim Summerville, secretary: Phone (615) 741-4499
Sen. Mike Bell: Phone (615) 741-1946
Sen. Mike Faulk: Phone (615) 741-2061
Sen. Kerry Roberts: Phone (615) 741-1999
Sen. Roy Herron: Phone (615) 741-4576
Sen. Beverly Marrero: Phone (615) 741-9128
Sen. Eric Stewart: Phone (615) 741-6694
In addition, call Gov. Bill Haslam at 615-741-2001. He spoke out against mountaintop removal during the campaign. Ask him to put action to those words by showing the leadership to guide the Scenic Vistas bill through the legislature.
The following television ad is running on Fox News in many of their districts.
For more information, click here.