Legislature won't curb mountaintop mining, animal cruelty

Tuesday, March 30, 2010 at 3:31pm

The state House environment subcommittee adjourned for the year Tuesday without voting on legislation to ban coal companies from mining by dynamiting Tennessee’s mountaintops.

The adjournment, which came by a vote of 6-4, effectively kills the bill for the third straight year. The companion legislation is stalled in a Senate committee.

Advocates say the method of mining known as mountaintop removal threatens the state’s tourism industry as well as water quality and even the health of people living in towns in the valleys below.

“Surely we want to protect the tourism in the state of Tennessee,” said the sponsor, Rep. Mike McDonald, D-Portland. “It’s $14.2 billion a year industry that draws more than 50 million visitors to our state. They don’t want to see the ridgelines blown off with dynamite.”

The Tennessee Mining Association claimed the state stood to lose 6,000 jobs by banning mountaintop mining. But under questioning, association president Chuck Lane conceded he was including jobs that are somehow related to mining, and McDonald said only 381 people in Tennessee actually work in surface mining.

Rep. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, argued the legislation violates individual property rights.

“The Supreme Court could very well rule it is a taking," Niceley said. “I know people without land don’t worry about property rights. But this country was built on property rights, and the rights of the property owner have got to be protected. This is a taking, without a doubt.”

The subcommittee voted unanimously for an amendment to strengthen the legislation before deciding to adjourn. McDonald denounced the move as a gambit by which lawmakers can tell constituents they cast a pro-environment vote while actually killing the bill.

“This is a tactic to kill the bill,” McDonald said. “Tennesseans should be outraged.”

In this method of mining, coal companies chop down trees, scrape up the topsoil, then stuff fertilizer and fuel oil into drill holes and blast up to 1,000 feet off the tops of mountains.

The resulting tons of rubble often are dumped into hollows and creeks or just piled back up on top of the mountains once the coal is extracted, according to environmentalists. Coal companies say they reclaim the land by planting grass and trees.

A coalition of conservationists and church groups have pushed the ban on mountaintop removal in Tennessee. Most mountaintop mining in this country has occurred in West Virginia, Kentucky and Virginia. In Tennessee, coal companies have used this method most notably at Zeb Mountain on the Cumberland Plateau’s eastern edge — “the poster child for ugly mountains in Tennessee,” as coalition leader Dawn Coppock puts it.

In other legislative news, a bill by Rep. Janis Sontany, D-Nashville, to make cruelty to farm animals a felony instead of a misdemeanor died for lack of a motion in the House agriculture committee.

6 Comments on this post:

By: Blanketnazi2 on 3/31/10 at 7:51

Janis, thanks for trying.

By: kennyj on 3/31/10 at 11:17

Just another instance pointing out that the Legislature is still operating in the 70's.

By: TharonChandler on 3/31/10 at 12:17

From California the Vegan capitol today I declare to you that a lot of the 'animal cruelty' type people are some real flakes. It is a worthy cause, and thankfully I didn't take my turn to castrate a bull in Ag class, but some of the peta cruelty.blob people are flakes.

Also, anyone trying to throw around any 'felony indictments' are an enemy to an open and free society. Is Kim McMillian also trying to make farmers into felons, along with sontany? I'd hope not.

Re: "In other legislative news, a bill by Rep. Janis Sontany, D-Nashville, to make cruelty to farm animals a felony instead of a misdemeanor died for lack of a motion in the House agriculture committee" {NCP}.

From California I'm www.wmthcforcalifornia.com

By: pswindle on 3/31/10 at 1:20

This is what happens when the GOP takes over. They do not care for our environment or anything else.

By: govskeptic on 3/31/10 at 3:11

The Republicans never shine when these type issues come up. Yes, I believe
in mining for coal. No, I don't agress with blowing off mtn tops to get it. Just
because we have rural areas doesn't mean they need to be treated or look
like bombing ranges after the minerals have been stripped. These companies
never live up to their promises on reclamation a well.

By: shef2 on 3/31/10 at 8:46

My God, you people suck.
YOU just want to "WIPE OUT" everything - No matter what the COST to the Environment, or the helpless Animals, at YOUR discretion.... What the hell is the matter with you-?
Too much GREED in your Blood-??? You SHOULD be ASHAMED, but we ALL know you are NOT. You are disgusting.