Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Tennessee Legislature Reviews Bills Banning Mountaintop Coal Removal

The Tennessee House of Representatives (HB0291) and Senate (SB 0577) are hearing similar bills banning the practice of mountaintop coal removal from the state.  The bills' summary states it would prohibit "issuing or renewing a permit, certification, or variance that would allow surface coal mining operations to alter or disturb any ridge line above 2,000 feet elevation above sea level."

Without exploring the issue in too much technical detail, mountaintop coal removal is the process in which coal is extracted from hillsides using explosives to fragment large pieces of rock apart to access coal reserves.  This process has been used in the Appalachian mountains at the expense of both aesthetic beauty and environmental quality.  Mountaintop coal removal literally flattens mountains.  The coal is extracted and the other mining debris is then disposed of by dumping in low lying areas.  These areas hold important watersheds that are vital to maintaining water quality and preserving the Appalachian Mountain's rich biodiversity. The mining debris chokes out small mountain streams, and the runoff from these dumping sites is responsible for both increased turbidity and degradation of other water quality parameters further downstream.  The mountain's topography is drastically changed, and the tree coverage is eliminated further compounding the problems from erosion.

Here are some links to other blogs and articles concerning mountaintop coal removal:

NRDC Blog  another NRDC Blog

Definition of terms from the United Mountain Defense Fund
Zeb Mountain, Tennessee. Photo by United Mountain Defense

This issue is important to Tennesseans.  We urge you to seek out more information, form your own opinion and then contact your representatives and tell them what you think. Click HERE to identify your Tennessee state senator and representative.

Lee Friedlander, TNACI Conservation Associate

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