News release from Scenic Tennessee:
Mount Juliet, TN – December 11, 2012 – A Tennessee nonprofit best known for
promoting the state’s scenic qualities now wants to showcase Tennessee’s musical
heritage as well.
Scenic Tennessee has been awarded $100,000 by the Tennessee Department of
Transportation to produce a series of quick-paced videos that apply the power of
Tennessee music to the problem of Tennessee litter. Tentatively called
“Tennessee Speed Cleanups,” the project involves videotaping dozens of litter
pickups across the state, digitally accelerating the footage, then setting it to
original or traditional music performed by amateur as well as professional
musicians. Enhanced with captions, credits and images from 20 years of Scenic
Tennessee photo contests, the completed videos will be shared via traditional
media as well as sites like Twitter, YouTube and Facebook. UT Knoxville’s
student environmental group SPEAK will oversee the social media side of the
It’s all part of a new effort by TDOT’s beautification office to address litter
“beyond routine maintenance.” Scenic Tennessee, an affiliate of Scenic America,
is one of 15 grant recipients notified yesterday of their share in nearly $1
million provided by the state’s soft drink and malt beverage industries.
Grantees are required to provide a 20-percent match; for Scenic Tennessee, this
will come in the form of hundreds of hours of volunteer labor.
In his weekly column, Robert Houk criticizes an amendment to legislation on so-called “mountaintop removal” coal mining. A popular mantra among many Republicans has been, “Drill, baby, drill!” Now we are hearing: “Blast, baby, blast!”
…Don’t be fooled by the clever semantics that are being used to distract from the real purpose of the amendment. The truth is the Tennessee Scenic Vistas Act has been hijacked by Big Coal to allow mining companies to blast off the tops of mountains in Tennessee.
One local environmentalist told me last week the amendment would allow mining companies to remove mountaintops as long as ‘they pile the rubble back on to re-form the original contours.”
This is a practice known in the industry as cross ridge mining, and as long as valley fill is not involved then it is not classified as “mountaintop removal.”
Whatever you want to call it, the end results are the same. Dawn Coppock, the legislative director for LEAF (Lindquist Environmental Appalachian Fellowship), said the amended bill repeats a federal law on what coal companies can do with “overburden,” which she calls a “sad industry pseudonym” for what is left of a mountain after it is blasted apart.
If the amended Tennessee Scenic Vistas act becomes law, environmentalists fear the measure will spell doom for ridgelines in Claiborne, Campbell and Anderson counties, where 98 percent of all coal in Tennessee is mined.
,,,,Not surprisingly, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey praised the amendment as a sensible compromise that protects Tennessee’s mountains while allowing mining companies to continue to do business in this state.
“After years of controversy on this issue, I believe we have finally reached a point that all honest stakeholders in this process can be proud of,” said Ramsey, who has collected more than $195,000 in campaign contributions from coal companies in recent years.
Not so fast. Some of those “stakeholders” say Ramsey is not being honest when he says all interested parties have had an equal place at the negotiation table. They say the coal mining industry has clearly purchased a seat at the head of the table.
Meanwhile, environmental groups weren’t allowed anywhere near the bargaining table.
“He (Ramsey) appears to be is calling the advocates of protecting our ridgelines, like LEAF, dishonest,” Coppock said. “This is ironic in light of the circumstances.”
During his weekly meeting with reporters Thursday, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey read from a blog post by Jeff Woods on the amendment to the so-called “mountaintop removal” bill and proceeded to criticize Woods in particular and the media in general for coverage of the issue.
Woods thereupon posted a rebuttal that includes a chunk of Ramsey’s commentary: “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.
Note: Related prior posts HERE (Ramsey statement) and HERE (environmentalists’ take on the amendment)..
Statement to media from Lindquist Environmental Appalachian Fellowship:
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
News release from Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey:
(March 1, 2012, NASHVILLE) – Lt. Governor Ramsey (R-Blountville) praised action taken yesterday in the Senate Energy and Environment Committee to protect the beauty and integrity of Tennessee’s mountains while ensuring continued economic growth in the energy sector.
As amended by Senator Mike Bell (R-Riceville), Senate Bill 577 outlaws mountaintop mining in Tennessee. The measure codifies the current regulatory practices that prohibit mountaintop mining in Tennessee.
“After years of controversy on this issue, I believe we have finally reached a point that all honest stakeholders in this process can be proud of,” said Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey. “The language adopted today would remove all doubt and make clear that mountaintop mining will not be allowed in Tennessee.”
Senate Bill 577 as amended adopts the United States Department of Interior’s definition of mountaintop removal mining. This ensures that Tennessee’s treasured mountains are protected from practices which could damage our environment or the state’s tourism industry.
“I have always rejected this false choice between economic growth and responsible conservation. My goal as Lt. Governor has always been to make Tennessee the best state in which to own and operate a business. We continue to take steps that will bring and keep high quality jobs to Tennessee,” Ramsey continued. “At the same time, we need to respect and protect the majesty of our hills, mountains, streams and rivers. With this amendment, this bill will do that.”
The bill passed out of committee by a vote of 8 to 1 and will next appear on the floor for a vote by the full Senate.