by Jeff Woods
"I had one environmental group that said, 'Well, we can start getting our coal from China.' They actually said that to me. The ultimate goal for them is to keep coal mining out of the state," Ramsey said. "The bill that we passed yesterday outlaws mountaintop removal mining in the state of Tennessee, period. I think there's just a general philosophy of the press on this issue. Democrats good, Republicans bad. From day one, I've said I'm against this. There's no trick."
Extolling his environmental credentials, Ramsey went on to discuss his love of hunting and fishing and "diesel therapy," which he said he receives by prowling the bucolic countryside on weekends astride his fume-belching tractor. It turns out he loves the smell of diesel in the morning.
You can tell I get a little fired up on this. I get a little upset that we do honestly, honestly from the bottom of my heart try to do what we think is the right thing to stop this and there's not one ounce of coverage basically because I'm a Republican and I can't do good on this issue. I'm one of the most outdoorsy kind of people you'd ever want to meet. Every weekend, I am outdoors all weekend. I'm a big hunter. I love fishing. Well, I don't fish that much but I like it. I hunt a lot. I can't wait until tomorrow to be on my tractor riding around. I call it diesel therapy. I want to protect the environment. There's no better protector of the environment than farmers. They realize if it's gone, they're gone. You have to be a member of the Sierra Club to be pro-environment. That is absolutely, positively ridiculous.
For the countervailing view, here's a release from LEAF, the main environmental group trying to ban mountaintop removal in Tennessee:
Official Statement from the Lindquist Environmental Appalachian Fellowship (LEAF) Regarding Amendment to SB577 (Tennessee Scenic Vistas Protection Act)
LEAF is very disappointed with SB 577 as amended by the Senate Energy and Environment committee on Feb. 29, 2012.
The sponsor, Mike Bell and the Lt. Governor both say the amended bill simply codifies current practice. Current practice includes blasting off Tennessee's ridgelines. For five years, citizens of this state have asked the legislature just to put a buffer zone around the highest elevation ridgelines. Now they have passed a bill which they admit does not change the status quo and call that a "point all honest stakeholders can be proud of." The bill was not discussed or shared in advance of the committee meeting with any stakeholder other than industry. Industry does seem to be proud of the bill as now written.
As to the substance of the bill: LEAF must take exception with the claim that SB 577, as amended by the Bell Amendment #0137872, is a ban on mountaintop removal. LEAF's request to stop mountaintop removal, is not a shell game or semantics. We mean, do not let coal companies blow the top off mountains to get the coal out. LEAF is not working for a bill like the current amendment that relates to what happens after the mountain is blown up. We are concerned with the only time that matters for Tennessee’s virgin mountains, before the permit is issued.
The bill voted out of committee repeats federal law on what coal companies do with “overburden,” a sad industry pseudonym for the little pieces the mountain becomes after it has been blasted apart. LEAF is not working for a bill about where to put the little pieces. LEAF seeks and will continue to seek protection of the natural ridgelines.
The bill, as amended, says that there is no mountaintop removal so long as the coal industry molds the rubble into the “Approximate Original Contour.” The Northern Cumberland Plateau is not known for “Approximate Original Mountains.” It is known for some of the oldest and most beautiful mountains on this earth, molded not by engineers and bulldozers, but by the hands of God himself.
If a state has no mountaintop removal, it has no need to reaffirm federal law regarding molding rubble. On the floor, LEAF calls on the Senate to redeem this weak deception by voting for the bill as proposed by the sponsor, the bill that requires the coal companies to leave the original ridgelines on Tennessee’s mountains.
Legislative Director, LEAF