In this legislative session, Tennesseans’ voices were silenced. Here’s what I would have said.
Yesterday, I was honored to be called to testify before the Tennessee State Senate Committee on Energy, Agriculture, and Natural Resources, along with a friend, hero and colleague, Ann League. Ann is a property owner and resident of coal-bearing areas in Tennessee, who has lived in the shadow of Zeb Mountain. After Ann and I were called to the bench, Chairman Steve Southerland cut us off before we could sit down and say a word. The committee killed the bill on a procedural mechanism without ever allowing for discussion or taking a vote on its substance. This was despite the fact that thousands of Tennesseans from across the ideological spectrum have called for the passage of this bill. We have prayed, pleaded and lobbied on behalf of our mountains and mountain communities. Yesterday our voices were shut out, and our bill was ignored. If allowed to speak, here’s what I would have said:
“Good morning, my name is JW Randolph and I’m the Tennessee Director for Appalachian Voices.
I grew up outside of Birchwood, Tenn., in a log cabin my father built on the shores of the Tennessee River. Walking the hills and hollows of our state is how I learned what home means. Hiking and fishing out in the woods and waters is how I got to know the best of what our country has to offer, the best of what our state has to offer, and its how I got to know my family. These experiences taught me about freedom, self-reliance and responsibility.
Later in life I learned that not too far away, these same mountains were being filled with ammonium nitrate fuel oil and being brought down, poisoning the streams we ran through. These streams are no different than the one in Hamilton County where I proposed to my high school sweetheart, and where I now take our two year old daughter to learn how to skip stones.
Although she doesn’t quite yet understand, I try to explain to her the fact that when I was her age, there were 500 mountains in Appalachia that are no longer standing.