Front Porch Blog

Scenic Vistas Efforts Becoming Headline News

Tennessee Coal Industry Front Group Falsifies Information In Attacking Church-goers Motives

As the Tennessee General Assembly kicked off yesterday, 100s of supporters of our Appalachian Mountains gathered in congregations, gymnasiums, and homes across the state to complete 40 Days of Prayer for the Mountains. The efforts of LEAF, SOCM, Tennessee Conservation Voters and many others has helped make ending mountaintop removal one of the very top issues facing the legislature in 2012.

While the state’s largest paper – the Tennessean – ran this story, Nashville’s News Channel 5 headed off their evening news with this piece, highlighting the downtown service for the 40 days of prayer.

Lovely shot of my wife and daughter aside[:)], Pat Hudson and Reverend Ryan Bennett explain beautifully what we are up against here in Tennessee in our attempts to become the first state to ban mountaintop removal.

The somewhat anonymous Tennessee Mining Association (who doesn’t appear to have updated their website in 2 years) gave a weak and dithering response via Tim Slone that was half half-truths and half lies. I’d like to quickly go through it bit by bit.

Among their more egregious spurts of misinformation were the non-facts that…

It is my opinion that the prayer service is misguided. Their prayers should be directed at the guidance of the country in these difficult economic times and for the safety of the coal miners that provide for over 50% of the energy consumed by this country.

FALSE! Right out of the block he takes a typical elitist swipe at those who use reflection and wisdom rather than a paycheck to decide what to pray about. Then he makes a completely false statement. Coal no longer provides “over 50% of the energy consumed by this country.” The US gets roughly 45% of the electricity (a number that is continually falling) from coal, but far less if you want to include all forms of “energy.”

Secondly, I’m also curious if Mr. Slone cares to describe to us his umbrella organization’s stated opposition to and active lobbying against coal miners’ safety laws? That would seem to contradict his deep compassion for miners stated above. He’s trying to have it both ways.

Alright, lets continue…

Coal miners have carried the nation’s energy needs on their backs for decades, provided the coal for two world wars, providing the coal for steel generation and economic growth and leading us through the Cold War years.

True! Facts which Appalachian Voices acknowledges any time that we give a public presentation. We then go on to highlight how the coal industry has destroyed employment for more than 80% of their workforce by moving towards destructive surface mining methods. In Tennessee, employment decreased by 85% from 1985-2011. Then we learned last week that a new out-of-state owner was shutting down the state’s largest coal company (National Coal), and laying off 155 workers, roughly 40% of the coal employees in the state. These company owners are the ones Mr. Slone’s group was formed to protect. For Mr. Slone to pretend like his misguided organization cares anything about workers is the height of hypocrisy. They have laid off workers and fought against safety regulations for years.

Coal provides cheap energy which benefits every American when they turn on their lights, access the internet, charge their electric automobiles, etc. In these tough economic times when many citizens, especially senior citizens, are making critical decisions about paying for heating bills or critical medications, environmental activists are raising the costs for energy on everybody.

First of all, the US sent twice as much coal to France as we even mined in Tennessee last year. Secondly, Tennessee coal is by far the most expensive coal purchased by TVA, Tennessee’s #1 provider of electricity. Less than 0.09% of TVA’s electricity comes from Tennessee surface coal. Central Appalachia, in general, is the most expensive region to purchase coal from for TVA. BUT, the bottom line, and what I really want Mr. Slone to hear, is that TVA is paying more for surface mined coal than they are for underground coal from the Central Appalachian Basin. We don’t want to shut down all coal mines. We want to stop the destruction of our mountains. By doing so, we can also assure that TVA is paying less for Central Appalachian coal mined underground. There is no reason to continue wasting money on mountaintop removal coal.

The mining that occurs today in the Tennessee coal fields is around 90% re-mining which means that dangerous high walls and old deep mine openings are reclaimed. It is a shame that efforts are directed at eliminating these gains.

If 90% of what TN coal companies did was reclaim dangerous high walls and repair old deep mine openings, then I would quit my job and go work for them immediately. Unfortunately, for anyone who has seen the type of destruction going on at places like Zeb Mountain, they know that the mining that is being performed by out-of-state companies is nothing as benign as described by Mr. Slone.

These misguided efforts affect each and every one of us. Remember, if you can’t grow it, you have to mine it. Mining is critical to the growth of this nation and its security.” – Tim Slone, Chairman, Tennessee Mining Association

Firstly, don’t tell that to TVA, which has dozens of hydro-electric and wind power facilities throughout the state. They might think you didn’t know what in the world you were talking about. Secondly, Appalachian Voices and most of our allies are not against responsible, safe coal mining. But there is no place for mountaintop removal in Tennessee or in any other state.

You can support our efforts to pass the Tennessee Scenic Vistas Legislation here.




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