Press Release from Sen. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga; June 9, 2010:
NASHVILLE – State Sen. Andy Berke (D-Chattanooga) expressed disappointment that a vote to consider banning mountaintop removal coal mining failed in the State Senate on Wednesday.
“It’s shameful that a bill to protect our environment and our tourism industry died because of parliamentary tricks, political interests and powerful lobbyists,” Berke said.
The effort to recall Senate Bill 1398 from a Senate committee that never took up the bill failed 12-14, with all ayes coming from Senate Democrats. Berke made the motion to recall the bill after Senate Republicans launched a similar attempt last week to force through unconstitutional legislation concerning healthcare.
Under SB1398, coal mining in Tennessee would not be banned. Only surface coal mining above 2,000 feet – also known as ridge line mining, or mountaintop removal – would be illegal in Tennessee. Mountaintop removal results in the release of the coal pollutant selenium that poisons fish and works its way up the food chain.
The ban on mountaintop mining has won widespread approval from a range of Tennesseans, including conservation advocates, tourism industry leaders, and faith-based groups, who argue that mountaintop removal destroys God’s creation. Mountaintop removal mining employs less than 400 people in Tennessee, and actually takes away jobs by replacing people with dynamite. Tourism in Tennessee, meanwhile, generates a $14.2 billion economic impact and employs more than 184,700 Tennesseans.
“The State Senate had a choice between the interests of the coal lobby and protecting our Tennessee way of life,” Berke said. “They made the wrong choice.”