by Jeff Woods
Mountaintop removal is an environmentally devastating method of coal mining. Yet our politicians--both Democrats and Republicans, including Gov. Phil Bredesen--refuse to lift a finger to stop it. Legislation to bar coal companies from blowing up Tennessee mountains fails year after year. In the governor's race, Zach Wamp claims mountaintop removal is good for wildlife, and Ron Ramsey denies the tops have been blown off mountains in this state. We guess no one's shown them pictures like this one of Zeb Mountain in Campbell County.
Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council, must have felt like he was touching down on an alien planet yesterday when he came to Nashville to attend legislative hearings on mountaintop removal. Lawmakers agree to hold these hearings each year only so they can pretend to actually care about this issue. Typically, some of them will doze off right in their chairs as scientists use overhead projectors to show pictures of decapitated mountains and fish deformed by toxic selenium released by coal mining.
Hershkowitz writes about his experience here. He's obviously in a state of disbelief that Tennessee would destroy Zeb Mountain or that we would throw away the scenic beauty of the Cumberland Plateau by failing to ban this method of mining.
[A]s I met after the hearings with a senior Tennessee government official, I was told there was probably no way that the bills under consideration to limit MTR coal mining in Tennessee would pass. "The coal companies own them. They finance their campaigns." was what I was told, in reference to the Tennessee state legislators unmoved by the compelling ethics, the peer-reviewed science and the community economics aligned against MTR coal mining.
One might reasonably think that a pro-business coalition of religious groups and scientists might prevail in limiting MTR in Tennessee to "only" those mountains lower than 2,000 feet. And yet, I'm told the odds are slim for passage. We'll see. The story isn't over, not yet. After all, only God should move mountains, and sometimes, He does.
It's obvious Hershkowitz was only a visitor. He thinks the legislature might do the right thing. Anyone who lives here knows better.