Republicans on the misnamed Senate Environment Committee had another idea. They raped the environmentalists' bill faster than a wildcat coal miner can pollute a pretty stream.
The committee replaced the bill with an amendment that renders it meaningless and keeps the status quo, then sent the legislation to the Senate floor for adoption. The devastating method of mining known as mountaintop removal would remain perfectly legal.
It’s a win-win for Republicans. They can boast in their reelection campaigns of voting for the Tennessee Scenic Vistas Protection Act while doing absolutely nothing to stop King Coal from destroying our environment.
“It breaks my heart and grieves me to think we’re doing things to take off the tops of those beautiful mountains,” said Sen. Beverly Marrero, D-Memphis.
“You’re not the one who has to look those miners in the eye who lose their jobs because of this bill,” Sen. Mike Faulk, R-Kingsport, shot back.
The committee’s Republicans claimed banning mountaintop removal would hurt the economy in Tennessee’s five coal-mining counties. But other forms of mining could continue under the bill, so it’s not likely that all the jobs would go away. Even if they did, there are only 350 of them in this state. Is it worth decimating the underpinning of a gazillion-dollar tourist industry to protect 350 jobs?
Not only did Republicans smack down the state’s environmentalists, they added insult to injury by accusing them of misleading the public about coal mining. Sen. Mike Bell, R-Athens, was incensed about the TV ad promoting the bill.
“We’ve been discussing this issue for at least five years, and I believe it’s time that we put it to rest. I’m tired of the deceptive ads, the deceptive language, the deceptive tactics that have been used by the other side over the years. The ad is full of images from other states,” Bell said.
Here's the ad. Judge for yourselves whether it's deceptive: