Tennessee mountains are at risk, here’s what you can do

Monday, May 5th, 2014 | Posted by Ann League | 1 Comment

TennesseeThe Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation is conducting a public hearing tomorrow on a proposed surface mine in Claiborne County, Tenn. If the permit for the Clear Fork mine is approved, Kopper Glo Fuel, Inc., would discharge its pollution into surrounding creeks that feed the Cumberland River, many of which are already impaired by surface mining. Here's what you can do. [ More ]

What’s Happening in Tennessee on Mountaintop Removal Today?

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014 | Posted by Brian Sewell | 1 Comment

TN_mtr_flyover Two important legislative efforts in Tennessee face hurdles in the form of a legislative hearing and committee vote today. Both efforts pertain to coal mining and mountaintop removal. One promotes the health of Tennessee’s mountains and mountain communities, the other would harm them. [ More ]

Ann League: Coordinating to Protect Tennessee’s Mountains

Thursday, January 30th, 2014 | Posted by Ann League | No Comments

ann_league_sm I started working to protect Tennessee's mountains from mountaintop removal coal mining more than 10 years ago because it was personal for me. And I plan to continue fighting mountaintop removal because the mountains of Tennessee will always be in my heart, which is why I am so excited to join Appalachian Voices to coordinate the organization's Tennessee campaign. [ More ]

Tennessee Tuesday: What Do We Do Now?

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013 | Posted by JW Randolph | 4 Comments

This is a post about how we can improve life for Tennesseans, protect an American culture that has endured for centuries, and promote our beloved Appalachian Mountains that once stood higher than the Himalayas, and are now threatened by mountaintop removal coal mining.

Tennessee Tuesdays is a new weekly feature on the Appalachian Voices Front Porch blog. While our main goal is to end mountaintop removal, we also hope to spread the gospel of hope, bring light to issues facing Tennesseans, and offer solutions on how we can move our state toward a cleaner and more energy efficient future.

Are you from Tennessee or nearby? Introduce yourself in the comments and let us know what you’d like to hear about. For now, welcome! Have a cup of coffee and take a minute to enjoy your Tennessee Tuesday.

What’s been happening in Tennessee lately?

Tennessee Legislature 2013
My home state has been in the national news a lot the last few months and not for the greatest reasons. Our legislature was constant fodder for late night comedians (catch Daily Show and Colbert’s greatest Tennessee hits here, here, and here) and was generally considered a bumbling embarrassment for most Tennesseans who don’t respond to “Senator.”

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What We Weren’t Allowed to Say

Thursday, March 21st, 2013 | Posted by JW Randolph | 3 Comments

In this legislative session, Tennesseans’ voices were silenced. Here’s what I would have said.

Yesterday, I was honored to be called to testify before the Tennessee State Senate Committee on Energy, Agriculture, and Natural Resources, along with a friend, hero and colleague, Ann League. Ann is a property owner and resident of coal-bearing areas in Tennessee, who has lived in the shadow of Zeb Mountain. After Ann and I were called to the bench, Chairman Steve Southerland cut us off before we could sit down and say a word. The committee killed the bill on a procedural mechanism without ever allowing for discussion or taking a vote on its substance. This was despite the fact that thousands of Tennesseans from across the ideological spectrum have called for the passage of this bill. We have prayed, pleaded and lobbied on behalf of our mountains and mountain communities. Yesterday our voices were shut out, and our bill was ignored. If allowed to speak, here’s what I would have said:

“Good morning, my name is JW Randolph and I’m the Tennessee Director for Appalachian Voices.

I grew up outside of Birchwood, Tenn., in a log cabin my father built on the shores of the Tennessee River. Walking the hills and hollows of our state is how I learned what home means. Hiking and fishing out in the woods and waters is how I got to know the best of what our country has to offer, the best of what our state has to offer, and its how I got to know my family. These experiences taught me about freedom, self-reliance and responsibility.

Later in life I learned that not too far away, these same mountains were being filled with ammonium nitrate fuel oil and being brought down, poisoning the streams we ran through. These streams are no different than the one in Hamilton County where I proposed to my high school sweetheart, and where I now take our two year old daughter to learn how to skip stones.

Although she doesn’t quite yet understand, I try to explain to her the fact that when I was her age, there were 500 mountains in Appalachia that are no longer standing.

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Protecting Tennessee’s mountains? Not worth the Senate’s time.

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013 | Posted by JW Randolph | No Comments

Despite broad citizen and political support for a bill protecting Tennessee’s mountains, the state Senate Energy, Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee today decided to not even allow public testimony on the measure and instead killed the bill.

SB99, the Scenic Vistas Protection Act, was slated to be heard by the committee during its usual meeting time at 9:30 (CST) this morning. The bill would prohibit mountaintop removal coal mining from ridges above 2,000 feet on the Cumberland Plateau.

Along with our good friend Ann League, a resident and property owner in Tennessee’s coal-bearing region, I had been scheduled to testify before the committee. But just as we were called up to speak, the chairman stopped us short. Several Members had left the room, and when none of the committee members offered a motion on the bill, the Chairman declared the bill dead, and we were not allowed to speak.

Despite the fact that Tennesseans from the left, right and center, and from a broad array of interests have come together to protect our mountains, our voices were silenced.

Instead, the senators chose to side with the coal industry whose political influence has long outlasted its ability to grow jobs in our state or protect the health and well-being of citizens in the coal region.

Two senators who have generally supported mountain protection, Ophelia Ford and Jim Summerville, didn’t come to the meeting, and a third, Charlotte Burks, who has voted for the bill in the past, left.

Update: We’ve posted my prepared statement here, and a powerful speech by Representative Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville) here. The news has been picked up by outlets worldwide including Chinese television, Switzerland, Singapore, Businessweek, NBC News in states from coast-to-coast, and in dozens of outlets across Tennessee. Local blog Nooga.Com has a great summary

“I’m Here Because I Love Mountains:” Watch a speech by Appalachian Voices’ JW Randolph

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013 | Posted by | 10 Comments

On Feb. 8, Appalachian Voices Tennessee Director, JW Randolph, spoke to members of the state legislature, the media and the environmental community. Below is a video and the transcript of his speech in support of the Tennessee Scenic Vistas Protection Act, a bill to protect the state’s virgin ridgelines from mountaintop removal coal mining.

Hello, my name is JW Randolph, and I’m proud to serve as the Tennessee Director for Appalachian Voices. I’m here to speak with you for a few minutes about efforts to protect Tennessee’s mountains, but first I want to thank the members that have joined us here this morning. Chairman Southerland and Representative Gilmore have both supported the Scenic Vistas Protection Act, and we’re happy you’re here. We’re thankful to you both and look forward to continuing to work with you to pass this important legislation. I would also like to thank those in attendance for engaging in the democratic process, and finally I’d like to thank the Tennessee Environmental Council, Gretchen Hagle, John McFadden and your team. You guys are great leaders in this movement here in Tennessee and for us here on Capitol Hill, we all appreciate you and the work you do.

I’m here because I love mountains. I grew up in a log cabin my father built in the woods, on the banks of the Tennessee River. And like many of you, I got to know my family, my place, and our history through walking the beautiful woods and waters of middle Tennessee, fishing, hiking, and 4-wheeling. The time spent in these mountains taught me about freedom, responsibility and self-reliance. This was where I learned the best of home, the best of our state, and the best of what our country has to offer. As I got older, I learned that not too far away, near our ancestral land, coal companies were blasting apart the mountains, and poisoning the streams that we ran through.

My daughter will turn two years old this month. When I was her age, there were 500 mountains across Appalachia that are no longer there. Since then there have been 2000 miles of streams buried by mining waste, and 125-square miles of The Cumberland Plateau that has been altered irrevocably. That is why its important that Tennesseans join the effort to pass the Tennessee Scenic Vistas Protection Act.

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TN Legislators Miss Another Opportunity to Protect State’s Mountains

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012 | Posted by | No Comments

House Subcommittee Kills Mountaintop Removal Ban
With Delay Tactic

In yet another act of political cowardice on the issue of mountaintop removal coal mining, a Tennessee House subcommittee voted to kill the Scenic Vistas Protection Act and for the second time to send it to summer study.

Despite a passionate plea by bill sponsor Rep. Michael Ray McDonald, the Conservation and Environment Subcommittee voted 6 to 4 to avoid a direct vote and instead condemn the bill to a summer study session which has no authority to vote on legislation. Representatives Richard Floyd, David Hawk, Ron Lollar, Pat Marsh, Frank Niceley and John C. Tidwell all cast pro-mountaintop removal votes. Representatives who voted to hear the bill were Charles Curtiss, Brenda Gilmore, Mike Kernell and Art Swann.

“When this bill was introduced in 2008 there were 5 mountains permitted for surface coal mining above two thousand feet in Tennessee. Now there are 13,” Rep. McDonald said to the subcommittee. “We have lost eight mountains since 2008 by delaying. If we don’t vote this year, we will lose more mountains. Without our mountains, Tennessee is not Tennessee.”

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Critical Vote Today in Tennessee Legislature

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012 | Posted by JW Randolph | No Comments

Mountaintop Removal Makes Us Sick, Takes Away Our Jobs, and Destroys Our Mountains. What Else is Left to Study?

The Scenic Vistas Protection Act is closer to passage than ever before. TODAY (Mar. 27) at 12 p.m. CST, the Tennessee House Environment Subcommittee will vote on whether or not to protect Tennessee’s mountains from the damages of mountaintop removal coal mining.

One tactic that the coal lobby is using is to push for delay into “summer study,” with Representatives saying that they need more information on the issue. But there’s a problem with their line of thinking. First, this bill has been around for 5 years. They’ve had time to read it, consider it, and study it. Heck, they’ve had time to etch it into stone if they want. Its not a new bill.

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WOW! More than Two Dozen Republicans, Democrats, and Independents Cosponsor Scenic Vistas Act

Monday, March 26th, 2012 | Posted by JW Randolph | No Comments

New Cosponsors Swarming as Advocates Prepare for Critical Test Tuesday

Tonight a host of House Republicans, Democrats, and the state’s sole elected Independent signed on as cosponsors of the Tennessee Scenic Vistas Protection Act, signaling an unprecedented shift in momentum for our efforts to protect Tennessee’s Mountains. The bill is scheduled for a critical vote tomorrow (3/27) at 1PM EST in the House Environment Subcommittee.

A big Appalachian THANK YOU to the new cosponsors of the Scenic Vistas Act, listed below…

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Tennessee Senate Dodges Historic Vote on Mountaintop Removal

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012 | Posted by | No Comments

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 13, 2012

Tennessee Senate Dodges Historic
Vote on Mountaintop Removal

Scenic Vistas Act Delayed, House Subcommittee Vote Up Next

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CONTACT: JW Randolph, Tennessee Director, 615-592-6867, jw@appvoices.org
Molly Moore, Public Outreach Associate, 828-262-1500, molly@appvoices.org
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During a Monday night legislative session, the Tennessee Senate avoided an outright vote on a bill to ban mountaintop removal coal mining in the state, choosing instead to delay.

State senators voted 19-14 to delay a floor vote on the Scenic Vistas Protection Act — a bill that has been active in the Tennessee Assembly for the past five years — until April 2.

“[This] vote was a calculated act of political cowardice,” said J.W. Randolph, Tennessee Director for environmental organization Appalachian Voices. “Senators chose to delay the bill hoping it will die in the House, rather than stepping forward to protect Tennessee’s historic mountains from the destructive practice of mountaintop removal.”

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ACTION: Tennessee Senate Votes TODAY on Mountaintop Removal Ban

Monday, March 12th, 2012 | Posted by JW Randolph | 1 Comment

The TN Senate will pick up debate on SB 0577 this evening at 6PM EST, and you can watch right here

Today, the Tennessee State Senate is poised to be the first full legislative body in history to vote on a mountaintop removal ban. This is a vote which mountain advocates can very well win. We need seventeen votes. Its going to be extremely close, and every single vote will count.

Please take 5 minutes to call your State Senator. Ask them to “Restore and Pass” the Scenic Vistas Protection Act today.

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