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.
Sadly, they’re represented by Congressmen and Governors who are owned by King Coal.
A new poll of likely voters out today finds folks pretty much united in their sentiments:
Voters across Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee, and Virginia solidly oppose mountaintop removal coal mining, by wide margins and across a host of demographic and political divides. Three-quarters support fully enforcing—and even increasing protections in—the Clean Water Act to safeguard streams, rivers, and lakes in their states from mountaintop removal coal mining. Fully 76% of voters across these four states support this proposal, including a 62% majority who feel that way strongly. Just 8% of voters oppose it. Support for this proposal is far-reaching, encompassing solid majorities of Democrats (86%), independents (76%), Republicans (71%), and Tea Party supporters (67%).
Those damn EPA agents have brainwashed everyone! Perhaps they poisoned the water.
And that’s not all:
This information is not surprising. Previous polls have shown similar outcomes, including a poll conducted in West Virginia in 2004 and a national poll conducted in 2008. In fact, a national poll just conducted by CNN International found the same percentage opposed as the regional polls. That shows that even those who live in states where coal is a big part of the economy don’t like mountaintop removal mining.
The Last Mountain premieres this Friday at The Kentucky Theater.
The movie, which played Sundance earlier this year, is on a rolling release which means each weekend in each new city, there are people in fancy offices somewhere watching the Box Office returns to see if they should keep sending the movie to more cities for more people to see it. Which means if you go see the movie this Friday at the Kentucky, you’re helping to make the film available to more people in the future.
Which isn’t the main reason why you should go. The main reason is probably that it looks like a pretty good flick:
So make plans to go to the Kentucky Theater this weekend to see this movie. Take your friends.
If you can’t go Friday, then go Saturday. Or Sunday. It’s playing July 29th to August 4th. So you have options!
When the study came out three weeks ago showing that mountaintop removal was linked to a rise in birth defects, I was wondering how long if would take for some “scientists” paid by the “mountaintop development” industry to come out with something debunking it. I’m sure that will happen eventually.
But what do we have in the meantime? WFPL’s Erica Peterson breaks this little slice of awful, as one of King Coal’s favorite law firms says it’s not the coal industry’s fault, it’s just that those hillbillies are all inbred:
Now D.C.-based law firm Crowell & Moring is citing Appalachian inbreeding as a way to discredit science linking mining and birth defects.
A critique posted on the Crowell & Moring website last month raises several issues with the study’s methodology, including that the study failed to account for consanguinity—or inbreeding—which can also cause birth defects. Crowell & Moring represents the National Mining Association, but an NMA spokesman says the association wasn’t involved in the firm’s critique.
Studies have shown that consanguinity, or inbreeding, isn’t any more common in Appalachia than it is in other areas. A Crowell & Moring spokeswoman said in an email response: “Our website alert was not intended to reflect views of the National Mining Association or any other coal company, but is an attempt to identify certain potential weaknesses of the study in question. Consanguinity is one of a number of commonly addressed issues in studies of this type, regardless of geography. Scientists address this consideration regularly because it can matter to scientific conclusions, and do so regardless of locale. We did not raise this issue with particular reference to any region, and we did not mean to imply any such thing. That said, we apologize for any offense taken, as none was intended.”
The piece was removed from the firm’s website earlier today.
Yes, how dare people suggest that King Coal doesn’t have the utmost respect for their workers.
Maybe Blankenship can use that defense in his trial?
From KFTC, Coal River Mountain Watch, Kentucky Environmental Foundation, and Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition:
An important new study conducted by Dr. Melissa Ahern at Washington State University, Dr. Michael Hendryx and other researchers at West Virginia University finds significantly higher rates of birth defects in mountaintop removal coal mining (MTM) areas compared to non-mining areas in Appalachia, for six of seven types of defects.
Their paper, titled “The Association between Mountaintop Mining and Birth Defects among Live Births in Central Appalachia, 1996-2003” is now available online in Environmental Research on June 21, 2011.
“This study shows that places where the environment – the earth, air and water – has undergone the greatest disturbance from mining are also the places where birth defect rates are the highest,” said Dr. Ahern. “This is evidence that mountaintop mining practices may cause health impacts on people living in those areas, before they are even born.”
The study was based on analysis of over 1.8 million birth records between 1996 and 2003 in central Appalachia. Prevalence rates were higher in mountaintop mining areas compared to non-mining areas for circulatory/respiratory, central nervous system, musculoskeletal, gastrointestinal, urogenital, and ‘other’ types of defects. Spatial correlation between mountaintop mining and birth defects was also present, indicating that MTM activity in one county may have increased birth defect prevalence rates in surrounding counties.
The study showed that mountaintop removal mining effects became more pronounced in the latter years of the study (2000-2003) vs. earlier years (1996-1999).
Co-author Dr. Michael Hendryx said, “This study extends previous research on low birth weight and on adult morbidity and mortality in coal mining areas, and offers one of the first indications that health problems are disproportionately concentrated specifically in MTM areas. It’s significant not only to people who live in coalfields but to policy makers as well.”
Yeah, that’s science, though. And Steve Beshear wasn’t elected to debate science, he was elected to create jobs.
Here’s what some folks had to say:
“Mountaintop removal is not necessary; it destroys jobs, it destroys communities, and it is destroying human health,” said Bo Webb, who lives near a mountaintop removal site in Coal River Valley, West Virginia. “I call upon the United State Congress to immediately place a moratorium on all mountaintop mining in Appalachia.”
Health care providers in Appalachia expressed alarm at the report’s findings. “This is the most disturbing research that I’ve yet seen on the effects of mountaintop removal. It means that our mountain children are affected by the poisoned streams and polluted air even before they are born,” said Beverly May, a nurse practitioner serving in eastern Kentucky. “Our children deserve a better chance at life.”
“Governor Beshear has the power to stop, right now, these practices that are poisoning us,” May added. “I am very anxious to see if he’ll do the right thing by our children.”
Maria Gunnoe, a mother who lives near a mountaintop mining site in Boone County, WV and an organizer for the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition said, “Living at the toe of a mountaintop removal site, the impacts were clear to me years ago. This study confirms we have a problem. Yet in states like West Virginia and Kentucky our governors and federal legislators are protecting the coal industry at any cost. Shame on them for shutting us out of decisions that mean the life or death of our communities.”
“No one is going to tell me that blowing up mountains over my home is good for me,” Gunnoe added.
Deborah Payne, MPH, Energy and Health Coordinator for the Kentucky Environmental Foundation said, “We don’t need coal from mountaintop removal sites in order to have electricity. The longer legislators deny that fact, the more lives are damaged and lost. Not one more child’s health need be sacrificed when cleaner, renewable means of generating electricity are available.”
Ken Ham isn’t the only person dishing out the Earth Day funnies today. On the heels of last week’s hilarious Earth Day satire video, Governor Beshear gives us a satirical press release touting his new Greening Kentucky website, a take off on The Onion (which is also green):
FRANKFORT, Ky. (April 22, 2011) –In conjunction with Earth Day, Gov. Steve Beshear today announced that the Commonwealth of Kentucky has launched a new website of “all things green” in state government.
Gov. Beshear said the website, called Greening Kentucky, offers visitors a look at how Kentucky state government is saving money while implementing processes and programs that are environmentally sustainable. “This resource provides citizens with an opportunity to review the choices state government makes that support the health of our environment, reduce harm to the planet and save tax dollars.”
Website users can select a cabinet within state government to view both completed and ongoing green initiatives. For example, the Finance and Administration Cabinet is using a $3.6 million grant through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to reduce state buildings’ energy consumption through new energy management software and controls.
You see, not only is Steve Beshear for sustainable energy and clean air and water, he’s also touting the Big Oppressive Stimulus Tyranny of Barack Obama and his thugs!
I don’t know if I’ll get off his back, but I’m definitely slapping a knee.
I think I’m going to make a clock counting the days it’s been since Steve Beshear screamed at Obama and his EPA thugs to get off our poor out-of-state coal companies’ backs so they are free to destroy and pollute our land and water however they see fit. FYI, it’s been 72 days. Get off our backs, EPA!