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Melissa Waage’s Blog

40 Days of Prayer Launches Fight for Tennessee's Mountains

Melissa Waage

Posted January 10, 2012 in Health and the Environment, Saving Wildlife and Wild Places

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Will this be the year that Tennessee becomes the first state to ban mountaintop removal mining? Leaders in the state legislature are once again pressing forward with the Scenic Vistas Protection Act, a bill to end mountaintop removal in the state. And they do not stand alone.

That's because our friends at Tennessee LEAF, a Christian fellowship dedicated to protecting Tennessee's environment, have just wrapped up an incredible organizing effort, featured in yesterday's Nashville Tennessean. They have brought together faith leaders around the state in Forty Days of Prayer for the Mountains, seeking "wisdom and reverence to use the resources of nature so that no one suffers from our abuse of them.”

That is some wisdom that legislators will absolutely need if they are going to cut through the coal industry's obfuscations on MTR in Tennessee. The industry scuttled the Scenic Vistas Protection Act last time it came up, and they're at it again. Naturally, it is a little uncomfortable for industry flaks to go up against faith, conviction, and a common sense message of respect for communities and the environment. So they're resorting to denial and semantic games.

In response to the Forty Days of Prayer, the president of the Tennessee Mining Association absurdly told the Tennessean that "They are praying for West Virginia, not Tennessee, because we don’t do that...We don’t take the tops off of mountains and shove them into valleys.”

That assertion doesn't survive a second of examination. Call it mountaintop removal, crossridge mining, or steep slope mining, but the fundamental act of blasting to remove mountaintops and access coal is very much happening in Tennessee. (United Mountain Defense, LEAF, and Appalachian Voices provide some great background information and documentation.) 

It is true that mountaintop removal has not yet been as extensive in Tennessee as in some other parts of Appalachia. That makes it all the more important to pass the Scenic Vistas Protection Act as soon as possible. There's so much left to save, and so much good to be done for communities that rely on the clean water, healthy environment, and quality of life that Tennessee's mountains provide.

Are you a Tennessean? If so, you can join in the effort by sending a message to your state assembly members here.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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