Here is what I wrote to my senators after seeing the TN Senate Energy and Environment Committee meet last Wednesday to discuss SB 577, the TN Scenic Vistas Act.
You have heard, and maybe you believe, that TN does not have mountain top removal. Mountain tops are certainly removed in Tennessee, more are permitted to be removed, and our ridge lines will continue to be leveled if legislation is not passed. I am imploring you, vote to keep our ridgelines safe from destruction. Better jobs can be built--mountains cannot.
On Wednesday of this week, Senator Stewart will present his SB 0577– the TN Scenic Vistas Protection Act for a vote on the floor. While SB 0577 was being discussed in the Energy and Environment Committee, much to Senator Stewart's dismay, the Senator Bell added an amendment that is (1) misleading (2) does not keep our ridgelines safe and (3) is redundant with current TN law and an inconsiderate waste of the full Senate's time. I support the original sponsor's bill.
As you know, the federal Office of Surface Mining, states that if operators pile the rubble back where it was destroyed from than the mountain technically was not removed. Do you honestly truly believe this? I balk every time I hear this mantra. This is not good enough for Tennessee. Mountains are more than rock! They are more than the coal underneath. Mountains are ecosystems, vibrant forests, headwater streams, habitat for wildlife and homes for citizens.
SB 0577 is not an environment versus jobs issue. The cross ridge operations in Tennessee are not owned by Tennesseans. When mountains are destroyed the communities who live downstream are left sicker and poorer. A study of mining sites in Western VA and
Kentucky show that mining correlates to higher poverty, higher rates of cancer, and higher rates of birth defects. Do we want this to be the future in Tennessee's mountains?
Vote for the original bill without Senator Bell's misleading and redundant amendment. The original sponsor’s bill is in the right direction towards a better future for all of the citizens the Cumberlands, not just the interests of a few.
Senator, thank you for your service to our state,
Johnson City, TN 37604