Front Porch Blog

Tennessee Senate Dodges Historic Vote on Mountaintop Removal

March 13, 2012

Tennessee Senate Dodges Historic
Vote on Mountaintop Removal

Scenic Vistas Act Delayed, House Subcommittee Vote Up Next

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CONTACT: JW Randolph, Tennessee Director, 615-592-6867,
Molly Moore, Public Outreach Associate, 828-262-1500,
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During a Monday night legislative session, the Tennessee Senate avoided an outright vote on a bill to ban mountaintop removal coal mining in the state, choosing instead to delay.

State senators voted 19-14 to delay a floor vote on the Scenic Vistas Protection Act — a bill that has been active in the Tennessee Assembly for the past five years — until April 2.

“[This] vote was a calculated act of political cowardice,” said J.W. Randolph, Tennessee Director for environmental organization Appalachian Voices. “Senators chose to delay the bill hoping it will die in the House, rather than stepping forward to protect Tennessee’s historic mountains from the destructive practice of mountaintop removal.”

“The Senate’s decision is ignoring the wishes of thousands of constituents and is using a delay tactic initiated by the coal industry themselves,” continued Randolph. “Tennesseans are speaking with one voice to the House and Senate to ask for an end to the demolition of our mountaintops.”

The Scenic Vistas Protection Act is a bill introduced by Sen. Eric Stewart that would protect the state’s ridgelines above 2,000 feet from the destructive practice of mountaintop removal coal mining. A version of the Scenic Vistas Protection Act, or S.B. 577, passed in the Senate’s Environmental Committee on Feb. 29 included a last-minute amendment, written and seen only by the coal industry that gutted the original intent of the bill.

During Monday’s legislative assembly, Sen. Stewart bypassed the amended version and introduced the original language of the bill directly on the Senate floor. He strongly encouraged the Senate to move forward with a vote, stating that after five years, senators should have already developed a decision on the issue.

State Senator Mark Norris introduced the motion to delay, stating that it was necessary to give the assembly time to consider the issue.

“When this bill was introduced, there were 5 mountains permitted for surface coal mining above two thousand feet in Tennessee. Now there are 13,” Senator Stewart said. “Removing the top from a mountain is removing the top from a mountain, no matter what you call it, or where you put the little pieces after the damage is done.”

The Tennessee House Subcommittee on Conservation and Environment is scheduled to discuss the House version of the Scenic Vistas Protection Act on Tuesday.

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