Team AV Joins Forces to Take Back TN, Push Scenic Vistas Legislation
Almost three years ago, we ran a little piece on Tennessee and coal, exposing coal-industry front group FACES of Coal for the false numbers they were giving to legislators, utilities, and to the public. Of course, a week later Appalachian Voices first broke the story that these “FACES of Coal” were actually just iStockPhotos. Needless to say that we counted it is a small victory when the “FACES” scrubbed Tennessee’s coal information completely from their website. In a sense, the industry was ceding the state to those of us who want to protect our mountains rather than destroy them. But that didn’t mean that the destruction of our mountains has stopped.
Fast forward to 2012, a time when Tennessee has shown bipartisan support for ending mountaintop removal at the state and federal level, with the state legislature seeing action on the Scenic Vistas legislation, Congressional Representatives Cooper (D) and Cohen (D) championing the Clean Water Protection Act (HR 1375), and Republican Senator Lamar Alexander introducing federal legislation to curtail valleyfills. Study after study has emerged showing coal’s negative impact on the state budget and on public health. Ending mountaintop removal has become so popular in the Volunteer State that the coal industry even attempted to organize a boycott of the state, which they also failed at. After all, Tennessee is a state where the tourism industry employs more than 175,000 people, magnitudes more than are employed by coal mining in Central Appalachia, or even the entire United States…
The Great Smokey Mountains National Park alone hosts more than 9 million visitors every year, making it the most visited National Park in the entire country. It seems that Tennesseeans not only oppose mountaintop removal because it harms our mountains, rivers, and communities, but because we understand that ending mountaintop removal is the only way for us to create a sustainable economy in the central and eastern parts of the state.
Next week, after dealing with some redistricting business, the Tennessee general assembly is back in session. Appalachian Voices will be working hard to pass the Scenic Vistas Act, a bill which would effectively ban mountaintop removal in Tennessee. As currently written, the bill would ban surface mining over 2000 feet of elevation. As Central Appalachian coal mining states go, Tennessee’s production of coal is relatively small, but there are generally between 12 and 15 active surface mines in the state, with several permits pending. 98% of the state’s production comes from just three counties near the Kentucky border- Claiborne, Campbell, and Anderson. The continuation of mountaintop removal could not only threaten Tennessee’s greatest economic asset (our mountains), but could mean a worsening of the already high poverty levels in these counties, and negative public health impacts for citizens living underneath these sites.
For more on our Tennessee program, check out this great article over on Nooga.Com! We have some big announcements in the Volunteer state right around the corner, and when it comes to stopping mountaintop removal, we look forward to a watershed year here in Tennessee in 2012!