Mountaintop Mining Revolt in Tennessee

The fight to ban mountaintop removal in Tennessee via state legislation may have stalled, but momentum against this reckless coal mining method continues to build.  The Tennessean weighs in with a hard-hitting editorial calling for an end to this "unsustainable" mining practice. 

With its clearly stated position that "building a mountain peak is a job for nature, not humankind",  the editorial praises EPA for its new policies to ensure that mining companies must meet tougher water quality standards before being allowed to blow up mountain peaks and dump the waste into Appalachian streams.

The paper also takes aim at the small group of Tennessee legislators who, despite broad bi-partisan support for the bill to curtail mountaintop mining, used parliamentary tricks to forestall a straight up and down vote -- accusing the lawmakers of routinely "oppos[ing] environmental initiatives at the behest of business."

[UPDATE: In a guest editorial in The Tennessean, Rep. Mike McDonald, the state legislator who co-sponsored the bill to ban "extreme strip mining", unleashes his fury on those elected officials who conspired to safeguard the coal industry's interests by scuttling the Scenic Vistas Protection Act.  His closing line: "Mountaintop removal mining is an issue that affects all of us and therefore transcends partisan politics.  Regardless of whether you are a Democrat or Republican, we all breathe the same air and drink the same water.  We also, here in Tennessee, treasure our mountains.  More reason for Congress to do what so far our state legislature has failed to do — prevent the destruction of the mountains that so many of us hold dear."]

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) wins praise from the newspaper for his congressional legislation that would effectively end mountaintop removal mining.  The editorial notes, however, that "[i]t's pretty clear that the industry will fight any effort to limit this process."  Not that businesses aren't in the business of making money, says the editorial, "but when the means to achieving that profit exists through destructive and irreversible methods, industry must rethink those methods."

The editorial goes on to compare coal companies to cigarette companies -- "stonewalling against reform past the point of credibility"-- and deems mountaintop removal as "inherently bad."  It concludes:

For every mining job it creates — and relative to other industries, there are not very many — that many or more jobs are lost in tourism, especially in the scenic mountainous areas of Tennessee.  Once a mountaintop is blown up with dynamite, it can never be the same.

(Tennessee's Zeb Mountain / photo courtesy of United Mountain Defense)