Governor Curiously Silent on Tennessee Mountaintop Removal
Tennessee is headed toward a historic state Senate decision on whether to ban mountaintop removal mining. Passing the Scenic Vistas Protection Act* would make Tennessee the first state to ban mountaintop blasting for coal within its borders.
Plently of people are talking about the anticipated Senate vote and the coal industry's attempts to pass a sham substitute for the bill. But one voice has been curiously silent: that of Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam.
Haslam, a Republican, is perfectly set up to make his name as a foward-looking leader by throwing his support behind the strong, original Scenic Vistas Protection Act and securing Tennessee's natural blessings for the future. It's a no brainer. The tourism industry in Tennessee employs nearly 175,000 people and generates nearly $14 billion in annual revenues. The coal industry in Tennessee employs less than 400 people and winds up costing the state about $3 million per year. Where would you invest?
Haslam's position--whatever it is--could make a big difference in this debate. As I describe in this post, his Lt. Governor, coal industry friend Ron Ramsey, is publicly supporting a bait-and-switch to replace Scenic Vistas with bogus language that would do nothing to defend Tennessee's mountaintops. With a Senate vote possible as early as next Monday, now is the time for Haslam to weigh in. If you're as curious as I am about what he'll say, you can contact the governor's office here.
*The original language proposed by the bill's sponsor, Sen. Eric Stewart would have this effect. The bill as amended and passed in the Senate Environment Committee, unfortunatetly, would extend absolutely no new protections to Tennessee's mountaintops.
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