According to an email from Appalachian Voices a bit earlier today, it's actually possible that "the Tennessee State Senate [will] become the first ever state legislative body to vote on banning mountaintop removal."
[T]he Tennessee Scenic Vistas Act would ban mountaintop removal on peaks above 2,000 feet in the state of Tennessee. Two weeks ago in Committee, the original language of the bill was removed and replaced with a meaningless amendment ("a marshmallow," as we like to call it ) which even the sponsor admitted won't do anything to change mining practices in Tennessee. The gutted bill was then passed out of Committee and sent to the Senate floor, where today at 6PM we will try to "restore and pass" the original language which actually does something to protect our mountains and our Appalachian communities. We need 17 votes and we are very very close.
As you may recall, last April we interviewed Professor Michael Hendryx of West Virginia University, an expert on the economic and environmental impacts stemming from mountaintop removal coal mining. According to Professor Hendryx, "[mountaintop removal coal] mining is a loser economically, environmentally, and in terms of public health." In fact, Hendryx’s research found that Appalachian counties with the heaviest concentration of coal mining have the worst unemployment and the worst economic conditions in the region. All told, Hendryx’s found that mountaintop removal mining’s economic cost to Appalachian communities totaled roughly $42 billion per year in lost health and lives.
In contrast, here's what NRDC has to say about Tennessee's renewable energy potential.
Tennessee has only recently begun to focus on developing clean, locally produced, renewable energy. With more than 80,000 farms covering 11.4 million acres...Tennessee could become a leading producer of cellulosic ethanol, the biofuel of the future. The state is also throwing its weight behind a nascent solar industry, and will soon be home to one of the largest solar arrays in the southeast. Investments in the solar and electric vehicle industries are expected to create nearly 17,000 jobs in Tennessee by 2014.
All that, without the adverse cost in lost health and lives stemming from mountaintop removal coal mining. That sounds like a smart tradeoff to us, which is why we strongly encourage Tennessee to move rapidly in the direction of clean, sustainable energy for the 21st century.
P.S. Appalachian Voices adds, "If you're in Tennessee please take 5 minutes to call your state Senator and ask your friends and family to do the same. Our Senate needs to "restore and pass" the Scenic Vistas Bill on the floor tonight. Learn more about the bill here."