Anti-mountaintop removal activists are working overtime this week (see here and here), trying to draw attention to a vote expected in the Tennessee General Assembly on a bill called the Tennessee Scenic Vistas Protection Act.
As it turned out, the King Coal powers in our rocky topped neighbor to the south stripmined the bill’s language, ensuring that sometime in the future when the Volunteers win football games they’ll play “Reclaimed Barren Valley” as their victory song.
A last-minute amendment gutted a bill intended to ban the blowing off of Tennessee mountaintops and ridges, during the Senate Energy and Environment Committee meeting Wednesday.
Sen. Mike Bill, R-Riceville, offered the change that deleted the language of the Tennessee Scenic Vistas Protection Act to protect ridgelines above 2,000 feet from a practice often called “mountaintop removal.”
A paragraph was substituted saying that leftover rock, dirt and debris that is blasted away could not be placed in streams.
After the amendment was added, the bill sailed through unanimously with the exception of Senator Beverly Marerro, a great mountain advocate who voted against the final bill because of how badly the original bill had been gutted.
Needless to say, the bill as passed is not the Scenic Vistas bill. It is, as we say – a marshmellow – with essentially zero value. It is a blank slate which allows us to take up the conversation of mountaintop removal with the entire 33 member Tennessee State Senate. An amended bill is not the very best scenario that we could have faced, but it isn’t a bad position to be in. For the first time in history, to my knowledge, a mountaintop removal ban will be heard in its entirety on the Senate floor of a state legislative body.