Surprise Move Ends Attempt to Ban Mountain Top Mining
By Ben Hall Investigative Reporter
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A surprise move in a House of Representatives committee has likely killed a bill that would ban most types of mountain top coal mining in Tennessee.
Just as the House Sub-Committee on the Environment was about to vote on the bill (HB 0455), Representative Joe McCord, (R) Maryville, proposed that the committee adjourn. It was the last scheduled meeting of the committee this year.
"I hope the people of Tennessee see it for exactly what it is," said the bill's sponsor Rep. Mike McDonald (D) Portland. "It is just a tactic so the committee would not have to vote on the bill itself."
At first, the committee chairman was not sure what to do. Lawmakers sat around for more than 30 minutes waiting for a ruling about whether they should vote to adjourn or whether they should vote on the bill.
The bill before the committee would have prevented coal companies from damaging ridgelines above 2,000 feet when they mine for coal. It was designed to ban the practice of mountain top removal coal mining.
Just this weekend environmental groups ran radio ads across the state asking lawmakers to vote in favor of banning mountain top mining.
The coal industry said the ban would cost jobs in some of the poorest areas of the state.
"It seems like we're spending a lot of time talking about a subject that is going to do away with high paying jobs," said Coal Industry Lobbyist Chuck Laine.
House rules require that a motion to adjourn be voted on immediately. It is not up for discussion. The committee voted to end the meeting without voting on the bill.
Rep. McCord denied the move was a tactic to kill the bill.
"We have voted on this issue and had more hearings on this than any other subject matter than we've had over the last four years," said McCord.
Rep. McDonald said members did not want to be on record as publicly supporting mountain top mining.
A recent NewsChannel 5 investigation revealed the people with an interest in coal have contributed more than $300,000 to Tennessee politicians since 2009.