Coal Miners May Move Mountains for Another Year

The idea of prohibiting so-called “mountaintop removal” coal mining in Tennessee was quietly sidelined for at least another year or so on Tuesday by a diplomatic state Rep. Bill Dunn, the environmentally-conscious and God-fearing Republican who sponsored the bill this year.
Officially, Dunn took the bill “off notice” and declared that proponents will wait to see what happens with legislation proposed by Gov. Phil Bredesen’s administration to ban coal mining within 100 feet of a stream. That, he said, accomplished half of what the “mountaintop removal” bill sought and “half a loaf is better than no loaf.”
Unofficially, Dunn was acknowledging the reality – he cannot get majority support of the measure from the House Environment Subcommittee. He had a couple of solid votes, a couple or three “no way” votes and the rest “uncomfortable” with a decision and thus inclined “no” if prodded into a vote.
Thus, a retreat was in order to keep up hopes for another day. Maybe next year.
Proponents of the proposal were philosophical with Dunn’s decision.
“He’s the sponsor, driving the train,” said Dawn Coppock, the LEAF lobbyist who has more or less served as point person for advocates. “The rest of us are just along for the ride.”
The demise of the bill came with due ceremony, including Coppock’s impassioned plea to the subcommittee for passage, complete with a slide show of mined mountains. She got in some quotable one-liners, such as:
“Mountaintop mining creates jobs for dynamite, not men.
The “sludge ponds” created to hold water runoff from mines are “ticking little time bombs” comparable to TVA’s fly ash storage at Kingston Steam Plant.
She also complained that the coal industry lobby had not negotiated with environmentalists toward a compromise. (Bredesen, arguably, had already done so, as Dunn tacitly acknowledged.)
“They think they don’t have to negotiate with us because you guys aren’t going to pass it (the bill) out of committee,” she said.
They were right, as Dunn basically acknowledged.
Chuck Laine, lead lobbyist for the coal industry, sat in the back of the room. He did not ask to speak. He did not need to do so. The negotiation was over. At least for this year.

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