I am saddened at the fact that the representative for District 8, Joe McCord, has kept the Tennessee Scenic Protection Act from moving forward again. ["Three Times the Harm," Citybeat by Frank Carlson, April 1, 2010] This act could help end mountaintop removal coal mining in our state, a type of coal mining that requires the least amount of labor, i.e. jobs, and is by far the most destructive, literally blowing the top off of a mountain in order to get at seams of low-grade coal. This type of coal mining results in useless property values for the surrounding communities, and leaves behind waste ponds the size of small lakes full of poisonous heavy metals such as arsenic, mercury, and selenium.
Each time that Mr. McCord has stopped this proposal from leaving committee, he has prevented the full legislative body from having the opportunity to consider it.
It saddens me that McCord and other state representatives from this region sponsor the destruction of the very assets which make our state so valuable and destroy those mountains which so many of my neighbors depend on for jobs and to feed their families.
By preventing this proposal from leaving committee, Mr. McCord allows a large Eastern European coal company, which exports large amounts of the coal mined in Appalachia to its steel plants back in Europe, to continue destroying our lands and poisoning our waters. This company United Coal, owned by Metinvest, recently established its U.S. headquarters in Blountville, where our millionaire Lt. Gov. Ramsey calls home and has a real-estate business. Mr. Ramsey was recently quoted as saying, "We're not doing mountaintop removal coal mining in Tennessee."
What is happening on Zeb Mountain, in Campbell County?
Rep. Frank Nicely of Strawberry Plains said in the committee meeting on Tuesday, March 30, that mountaintop removal was needed to give elk a place to graze. I was not aware that the elk population was growing so quickly in Strawberry Plains and was in need of mountaintop removal. All of what I type here is a matter of documented public record. These statements demonstrate the apathy and ignorance regarding the extensive destruction and health effects caused by mountaintop removal.
I'm bewildered that our state government allows someone with such a personal financial interest in stopping this proposal, Mr. McCord, to chair the committee which oversees this and similar legislative proposals—thus benefiting his personal business interest and future plans at the cost of those he's supposed to represent.
It's easy to point toward Washington and avoid responsibility by placing blame elsewhere. However, the destructiveness of mountaintop removal coal mining is in Tennessee and being allowed by elected officials from Tennessee. Mountaintop removal leaves poisoned streams and waste ponds and completely devalued properties near decapitated mountains. This is our responsibility and it's very close to home.