Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Raising Awareness Can Save Our Mountains

Another FPC Elizabethton member wrote this letter to the editor in the Johnson City Press regarding mountain top removal mining. Thanks, Steve!
State Sen. Mike Faulk, R-Kingsport, cast his vote against the Tennessee Scenic Vistas Protection Act, which would protect Tennessee’s virgin ridgelines above 2,000 feet from mountaintop removal coal mining.

This vote took place in the Senate Environment, Conservation and Tourism Committee with the six Republican members voting against and the two Democratic members voting in favor. The effect of the vote was to kill the bill for this session. Tennessee Mining Association lobbyist, Chuck Laine, dominated presentation time. The proceedings are too complicated for this space, but are available for viewing on the state General Assembly website (Senate Bill No. 577).

This part is simple, though. In an unguarded moment, Laine became annoyed with one of his own presenters, Tennessee Mining operator Justin Clear. Laine said Clear represents one of the last of Tennessee’s small mine operators. He then divulged that the big companies who now own the locals are from Texas and West Virginia and they had “big pockets” and stood ready to finance a challenge should the bill pass.

It’s reported the senators were taken aback by the revelation of who really manipulates the Tennessee Mining Association. Apparently it wasn’t enough to cause Faulk and his Republican cohorts to slow the progress toward accommodating the powerful operatives who have Tennessee’s signature ridgelines in their crosshairs.

More voices need to be added to this. They would be our own. Lawmakers should not come away from a vote like this without a challenge from the folks who understand the ramifications of what they’ve done.

STEVE FERGUSON
Johnson City
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