Amendment Ruins Tennessee Bill to Ban Mountaintop Removal, Sponsor Says

by Erica Peterson on March 6, 2012

A measure in the Tennessee Senate to ban mountaintop removal coal mining in the state has hit a roadblock.

The original Tennessee Scenic Vistas Protection Act would have prohibited new mining permits from removing the ridgelines of mountains above 2,000 feet. But an amendment has changed the intent of the bill, and the bill’s lead sponsor says it won’t do anything to change the state’s mining practices.

Republicans hold a majority in the Tennessee Senate. The bill’s sponsor, Senator Eric Stewart, says he’ll need four Republican votes to amend the bill back to its original version and pass it.

“And start working on it in the House and do a little to keep some of the practices that are going on in your good state and in West Virginia, we’re trying to keep that from happening in Tennessee,” he said.

Stewart says the coal industry is relatively small in Tennessee, but it has the potential to ruin a much bigger industry: tourism.

“There are a lot of folks that believe very strongly that tourism, which is one third of Tennessee’s economy, protecting those mountains and the gifts that God gave us, protecting the water and the streams and the folks that live downstream of those mountains, their health and livelihood and their children’s house and livelihood are important too,” he said.

Tennessee mines produced less than 2 million tons of coal in 2010, according to the National Mining Association. Kentucky produced nearly 105 million tons, and West Virginia produced 135 million tons.

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