"The problem is, look I'll be honest with you, I would ban it if I could," he said. "[But] There are huge issues here of takings of property. People under the U.S. Constitution have rights to be compensated for these takings. I certainly don't have the money to go buy every seam of coal in the state."But according to the environmental group LEAF, the main proponent of banning mountaintop removal, the state would have to compensate coal companies only under rare circumstances. LEAF's statement follows after the jump:
"We continue to work for legislation to end one mining method, blowing the tops off Tennessee's mountains to extract coal. The legislation we propose, the Tennessee Scenic Vistas Protection Act (HB 899/SB1406), only affects peaks over 2,000 feet. Less than 10 percent of Tennessee coal is located above this elevation. It's for that small amount of coal that the method of mountain top removal - the most recent and violent type of mining - would end. All other mining would be allowed, but mountain top mining is never a responsible mining practice.
"Because the Tennessee Scenic Vistas Protection Act ends only one type of mining for a small amount of Tennessee coal, a right to compensation will only occur in extremely rare cases. Existing law related to compensation requires that at least three conditions must be met for compensation: 1) the mineral rights must be owned separately from the surface rights, 2) the coal company must be otherwise entitled to a permit for that kind of mining at that location, and 3) the coal must not be accessible by any other means. All of these conditions rarely, if ever, occur together.
"It is important to understand that LEAF and the limitation it proposes is not anti-coal mining. In fact, we have worked hard to craft this legislation in a way that preserves coal mining in Tennessee. But irreparably damaging Tennessee's mountaintops, one of our state's treasured icons and annual tourist draws for millions of people all over the globe, is something we will never endorse. Simply put, we are pro mountains, and we believe our state leaders are as well."