Bravo Senators! Thank you for saying no to mountain-top removal mining.

Guest Blog | March 27, 2009 | Coal, Energy Policy

Earlier this week, two United States senators, Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), introduced bipartisan legislation to prohibit the dumping of mining waste into streams, effectively ending the practice of mountain-top removal mining (MTR).  The Appalachia Restoration Act would amend the federal Clean Water Act from the 1970s.

This legislation would be a huge step toward ending this destructive practice that has severely devastated our Appalachian mountains and heritage for decades. The initiative shown by Senators Alexander and Cardin is exactly the kind of leadership we need to chart a clean energy future, although it’s a bit of an inconsistent departure from Sen. Alexander’s pro-coal OpEd issued last week.

We welcome the positive change in this direction. We don’t always agree with Senator Alexander’s policies and we think renewables are a much bigger part of the puzzle than he seems to, but we sure are proud of this bold step he’s taken against MTR – please join us today in thanking him heartily!

The proposed legislation comes immediately on the heels of EPA’s major announcement to more heavily scrutinize permits issued for mountain-top removal mining and putting hundreds of mining operations on notice. Clearly the environment and culture of Washington is beginning to wake up and realize that our addiction to coal is damaging our quality of life, ruining precious natural resources, and destroying the valuable heritage of our Appalachian ecosystems.

Senator Alexander stated upon releasing the bill, “Millions of tourists spend tens of millions of dollars in Tennessee every year to enjoy the natural beauty of our mountains – a beauty that, for me, and I believe for most Tennesseans, makes us proud to live here.”

We completely agree – the mountains of our Southeast region are precious, and not for sale.  We have so many other options for how we use and produce energy that don’t involve chopping the tops of mountains, destroying streams, and people’s homes and health. If you’re not convinced yet that MTR is a barbaric practice, please watch the film “On Coal River“. It’s time for us to support the mountain economies of Appalachia in moving toward a clean energy economy. We can reclaim the lost mountain tops with clean renewable wind energy, creating local, healthy, long-term jobs for those displaced by any lost coal revenue. We need Senator Alexander to take that next bold step and support a strong national Renewable Energy Standard!

Yet throughout the region we continue to fight ill-conceived traditional pulverized coal plant proposals that will only mortgage our future. Most of these coal plants are planning to use the cheapest coal available, which is often the currently accessible mountain-top removal coal from Kentucky, West Virginia, and Tennessee.

SACE is challenging coal plants in North Carolina – Duke Energy’s Cliffside plant, in Georgia – Power4Georgians Plant Washington, in South Carolina – Santee Cooper’s PeeDee coal plant, and in Florida – the Seminole coal facility.  We know that coal is quite simply one of the dirtiest forms of energy around – from the mining to the burning to the waste, there is no way to make coal clean, despite the industry’s hard attempts otherwise.

Please join us in challenging these coal plants today – we need your help to ensure that we don’t build more hungry power plants that could perpetuate archaic practices like MTR. All of the coal plants proposed in our region would excessively exacerbate global warming by pumping millions of tons of carbon dioxide into the air annually, would suck limited water resources out of our lakes, rivers and streams, and contribute to toxic air emissions like mercury that poison our children’s future.

No matter how you look at it, coal is dirty business. Thanks to Senators Alexander and Cardin for taking a bold step forward to end mountain-top removal mining… Now we need your help to stop our addiction to coal – PERIOD.

Co-written by Ulla Reeves and Jennifer Rennicks

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