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Help Ban Strip Mining in Tennessee

We need your help to kill strip mining in Tennessee

If you love mountains please contact the Governor of Tennessee! phil.bredesen (at)


The tide is turning! This is it. We can kill strip mining for coal in Tennessee for good with your help. This is for all the marbles. In the last year the entire tone of the campaign against strip mining has shifted; the strip mine companies are on the defensive. Now it..s time for a knock out punch.

United Mountain Defense and its attorneys recently helped members of the Tennessee Student Legislature draft a bill which out and out bans strip mining for coal in the State of Tennessee no ifs, ands or buts, a flat out abolishment of the practice known as strip mining for coal. We are not asking for less strip mining, or kinder gentler strip mining, we are demanding the permanent abolishment of this horrendous attack on Tennessee's jobs, environment and culture.

This bill was passed by the Tennessee Student Legislature and now is being passed to Governor Bredesen's desk. Yes, Gov. Bredesen will read our bill to ban strip mining in Tennessee! After a week or so there, the bill will be introduced and debated by the Tennessee General Assembly. If it becomes law all strip mining for coal in the state of Tennessee will be forbidden by statute.

If you don't know what strip mining is doing to the Appalachians, you are fortunate. It is an ongoing ecological, social and cultural disaster of literally geologic proportions. Entire mountains are being blown up, highland watersheds are being buried forever and the most diverse habitat in the world is being destroyed for short term greed. For more information and pictures of the destruction go to:

Needless to say, we need your help now more than ever. We need folks to call, email, write, fax, talk to, petition, fly planes with banners, to contact Governor Bredesen in every way possible and to express support for this bill.

Please be polite! Governor Bredesen has sent clear signals that he is not happy with the strip mining for coal happening in our beautiful state, as has our General Assembly. This is about numbers of supporters for this bill; it is not an adversarial approach.

After the bill leaves Bredesens desk and goes to General Assembly, then we go to step 2: begin calling and emailing the General Assembly to urge their support for this bill.

Do not be afraid to hit the economics argument first, foremost and head on in this call in campaign. We have a point by point, state by state, county by county refutation of any argument that strip mining creates jobs. Check the citations. State data and data from the mining industry itself shows that wherever strip mining has reared its head, mining jobs have plummeted.

In Tennessee that's especially ironic when our number one employer is tourism. Mining is not even in the top 10. So don..t be afraid! The economic, social and environmental data is all on our side against strip mining here in Tennessee .

And as the bill makes its way through our Assembly you can bet the Assemblies of other states will be watching (and hearing) about what Tennessee is doing. In the 70's, it was Tennessee that dealt the final blow through legislation to the so called broad form deed which provided much of the momentum for strip mining then. We hope to repeat history. After Tennessee takes this step, other states must take the idea more seriously. If we can get Tennessee to do the right thing for its own economic, social and environmental interest (and for its people) other states will come around.

WE NEED YOUR HELP! Don't send us money! How's that for an argument from an environmental group? Right now we need your voices to be heard in support for this bill. Once during our campaign against a road in Tennessee, we got over 45,000 comments in opposition to it--we need that again. This is purely about numbers. We need everyone: SEAC, NPCA, the Sierra Club, Earth Justice, OHVEC, App Voices, SELC, the Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment, GreenPeace, SOCM, TCWP, CRMW, Mountain Justice Summer, EVERYONE to make this a priority. And of course the coal industry is going to freak out at this overt offensive against their destruction of our mountains.

Talking Points:

Gov. Bredesen should support the bill to ban strip mining in Tennessee because:

1. Strip mining destroys far more jobs than it creates. Strip mining is a miniscule part of Tennessee..s economy and yet by destroying the mountains that tourists come to see and enjoy, it adversely affects one of Tennessee..s largest employers--tourism.

2. Strip mining destroys mining jobs. Every states mining jobs has plummeted as strip mining for coal has taken root. This is because strip mining is so mechanized while deep mining is not.

3. Strip mining destroys headwater streams and highland watersheds and the crucial functions of these waters cannot be recreated or restored. Thus, strip mining causes a permanent condition of pollution in violation of the Water Quality Control Act

4. Strip mining permanently disfigures the landscape and destroys Tennessee..s diverse forests. Tourist can now see the strip mines as they fly into Tennessee.

5. Strip mining is a bad deal for Tennessee: economically, socially and environmentally.

6. Strip mine companies often declare bankruptcy when coal booms end leaving the state to pick up the resulting cost of landslides, massive erosion and contaminated sites. This cost can run into the millions.

7. Strip mining destroys fishing and fisheries.

8. Strip mine companies clearcut in advance of mining. Hardwood forest never grow back on these sites. This undermines forestry as a sustainable industry.

9. Strip mining for coal scars Tennessee's mountains and forest for all eternity and destroy gods creation.

10. Sportsmen cannot fish in strip mines. Tourist will not visit strip mines and orange streams. Retirement communties do not move to counties to see strip mines.

For the Mountains!

Call the Governor's ethics hotline toll free at toll-free: 1-866-442-9025

Governor's Office Tennessee State Capitol Nashville, TN 37243-0001

Phone: 615.741.2001 Fax: 615.532.9711
Email: phil.bredesen (at)

Visit Bredesen personally!

Join United Mountain Defense info list:

Other things you can do to help save Tennessee s Mountains:
Email unitedmountaindefense (at) if you can help, have any questions? or if you could forward your comments and what you get back to us.

Here is a bare bones copy of the bill.


SECTION 1. Tennessee Code Annotated, Section 59-8-205 is amended by adding the following language as subsection (d):

(d) No permit shall be issued for a surface mine utilized for the purpose of coal mining in the state of Tennessee.

SECTION 2. Tennessee Code Annotated, Section 69-3-107 is amended by adding the following language as an appropriately designated subsection:

(The Commissioner shall not have the authority to issue a permit to an activity prohibited in Tennessee Code Annotated, Section 59-8-205(d).

SECTION 3. This act shall take effect upon becoming law, the public welfare requiring it.

Here is more context.

Here's what the news below means. College student government members from across Tennessee passed legislation banning strip mining that will go to the desk of governor Bredesen and possibly to the Tennessee state legislature to be made into law. Thanks to Chris Irwin and Gena Lewis for drafting the anti-strip mining bills for us. There will be massive lobbying for this later so keep your eyes open and tell everyone you can to support this. We are potentially on the verge of banning strip mining in Tennessee.

Members of Tennessee Alumni & Students for Sustainable Campuses (TASSC)
were busy in Nashville this past weekend at the 2006 Tennessee
Intercollegiate State Legislature (TISL). At this annual mock-congress convergence, student leaders from across the state convene to write, debate, and pass legislation just like the actual state legislature. Bills that are passed through both the House and Senate of TISL are ultimately presented to Governor Bredesen for

Members of TASSC wrote and sponsored a total of seven bills, four of
which were successfully passed:

+ Ban on surface mining for coal in

Here is why other states should support this push!

I know that many folks on this list have been talking with me about this tactic of banning strip mining in Tennessee--and its ramifications, for 2 years now, but this is for folks who haven't been part of those conversations. Here is a brief list as to why we think that this push in Tennessee is so important.

1. In the 70's something called the broad form deed was providing the mechanism by which strip mining was ravaging appalachia. The Tennessee general assembly was the first assembly that passed a bill (that they intended to remain law and not get later shot down in courts like Kentucky). What happened was a chain reaction after that--the other states followed suit, we hope to do that again.

2. The coal industry is going to freak the hell out. Abe said in a conversation I had with him that the tone of our campaign has changed--that the coal companies have gone from ignoring us--to a defensive posture percieving us as a real threat, and spending MILLIONS to counter us. I predict multiple heart attacks by coal exec thugs when they get wind of this. And they are going to scramble and spend a TON of cash trying to counter this.

3. Did I mention the coal industry is going to freak out?

4. We have a state assembly openly talking about banning strip mining. Kentucky, WVA and SWVirginia can point to this debate--and shout from roof tops that its happening. We are lowering the bar--if the conversation revolves around an out and out ban any negotiation to something less starts from this point.

5. People are ready for the next step in this campaign--calling for out and out abolishment of strip mining for coal. Already I have recieved inquiries from other states about modelling this push. Its exciting to everyone in the campaign to see we are finally going for a knock out punch. We should try to get bills on the other states general assembly floors calling for out and out bans after this round, and it will be easier after this. Tennessee first, then lets do another state. My dream is to have ongoing discussions in all 4 states general assemblies discussing out and out banning strip mining for coal.

6. Once the genie is out of the bottle here in Tennessee the coal industry cannot put it back in. This round we will smoke out the members of the General Assembly that support us. We intend to redraft and repropose the same bill until we get it, but basically have a bill that bans strip mining on the assembly floor until we get it. Anti-ulcer medication is about to get a real big purchase from the coal barons.

7. The timing is right. Both parties, and the governor in Tennessee have already signalled impatience with the strip mine industry. A bill has already been passed by %100 of the TN general assembly giving our state agencies the right to stop all work on strip mines--and they did it and billed National Coal over 40,000 dollars. Our gov requested that OSM stop all permits for strip mining and conduct a full EIS on strip mining in Tennessee--and they rudely shot him down.

8. Strip mining sucks.

9. Sun Tzu said that when you are small appear large and when you are large appear small. The more calls and imput we get in support we get into our assembly and gov the more the coal industry is going to spend trying to buy an very unsympathetic governor and assembly. Construction owns our state government, not mining. We need calls and contact more than ever before.

10. We may get it if enough people contact our assembly. A state with an out and out ban on strip mining, think about it. Existing strip mines in Tennessee will continue--but no new permits. What will happen is the agencies will have nothing to do but put all their energies into watching the old mines--after the state has broadcasted that its against strip mining--and we will to. We will also have more time to focus on the three other states to kill help kill strip mining there.

Last--did I mention this is going to make the strip mine industry freak the hell out?

Anyway--we are updating our website this weekend to have all our call materials, numbers, talking points, the bill--etc. Please put it out to the world and all your list, myspaces, emails etc.

Also, I am currently posting our appeal to all the IMC's on the planet, if anyone can help please email me at

unitedmountaindefense (at)

Last here is the complete economics article with citations at bottom

Economics of Strip Mining

"We are not burdened by below market long term pricing contracts and because our workforce is not unionized we do not have the extensive union pension and health care liabilities, including black lung liabilities and post-retirement medical
benefits, that impact many of our competitors."

National Coal Corporation SEC filing1

This is an economics article about strip mining in Tennessee. I begin by showing data about the common economic effects in other Appalachian States, and Counties other than Tennessee, in that order. From that I will compare Tennessee and Tennessee counties--with data on Campbell, Scott, Anderson and Claiborne Counties.

"When you consider this petition, I hope you will keep in mind that when we drastically limit domestic energy production, it both destroys jobs and drives up prices. When this happens, it hurts the poor and low income and working people most of all."

Jimmy Duncan
To OSM in Support of Strip miner
National Coal

Unfortunately for Congressmen Duncan his argument is incorrect in regards to the destructive practice of strip mining which he is supporting with this statement.
Mining data from both the industry and the regulatory agencies in West Virginia, Kentucky and Virginia demonstrates one thing--as strip mining increases, jobs decrease.

Hundreds of thousands of mining jobs have disappeared while more coal is removed from the Appalachians than ever. Why is this? Dynamite is cheaper than
people. Modern strip mining is heavily mechanized and employs as few people as possible. Strip mining companies do not hire nearly as many miners as traditional deep mining 300 ton drag scoops and town-house sized bulldozers now do the jobs that used to employ miners. Here is the economic data on coal and coal jobs on a state by state basis.

West Virginia

In 1949 West Virginia produced 122,913,540 tons of coal. At this time 121,121 people were employed by mining in West Virginia. Contrast those numbers with 2004 when only an estimated 16,037 were employed in mining. That's a drop of over 105,043 mining jobs in West Virginia in a 56 year period. How much coal was produced in West Virginia in 2004? 153,631,633 tons. That's 30,714,093
more tons of coal that were produced in 2004 than 1949, with 105,043 fewer workers. Additionally membership in the mining unions plummeted during
this period undermining miners' ability to collectively bargain for items such
as wages, health insurance and safe mining conditions. The reason for the plummeting of the membership is apparent: fewer miners.2


In Kentucky in 1979 there were 47,190 people employed in mining. In 2002 that number had dropped to 17,042 people. That's a loss of over 30,148 mining jobs!3
And coal production during that period? In 1979 Kentucky produced 67,067,653 tons of coal. In 2002 Kentucky produced 131,402,797 tons, almost double the amount of coal, with close to 1/5 of the jobs. How is this possible? It is the nature of strip mining. Strip mining by its very nature erodes and destroys miners' jobs; it is the death knell for mining unions and more traditional deep mining techniques. Strip mining does not generate coal jobs, it destroys them. As coal from strip mines begins competing against coal from deep mines, the earth
is stripped of its coal and the miners are stripped of their jobs.

Mountain top removal and other forms of destructive strip mining don't even have to pay for dynamite anymore; they use diesel fuel and ammonium nitrate - the same fertilizer that was used to blow up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma. With this fuel and fertilizer, strip mine companies manage to avoid even the cost of more expensive explosives. With this mix, strip miners blow off
entire ridge tops one shot (detonation) at a time.

Most of the strip mine companies are not unionized. National Coal, in the quote above, bragged about their low labor cost because they don't have to provide their
employees with health insurance, black lung "liabilities", and post retirement benefits. By "liabilities" they mean if any of their miners get black lung they are on their own and the state will eventually have to pick up the tab. Will
TNCARE cover black lung? Strip mining companies also externalize their costs. Maintenance for sediment dams for all eternity is on the state, so it's cheap. After the bonds are returned, there is no one for the state to turn to for payment to repair massive landslides like those occurring all over the New River Watershed in East Tennessee. Downstream it is municipalities that have to pay to remove the sediment from the water. Toxic run-off and bright orange streams become the responsibility of either the future, or those who live downstream. Of course it's cheap to mine when strippers don't have to worry about blowing up streams, clear cutting entire mountainsides and wholesale destruction of watersheds-- or taking care of their workers.


In the year 2000, the Virginia coal industry was the nation's eighth largest, in terms of tonnages produced. In Virginia the three largest coal counties are Buchanan, Dickenson, and Wise. In 1950 Virginia produced approximately 20,000,000 tons of coal. In 2000 that number was close to 40,000, 000.4
The numbers of miners plummeted following the same trend as Kentucky and Virginia during that period. In 1990 10,265 miners were employed in Virginia--in 2004 that number had dropped to 4,001. Additionally, wages and amount of hours worked also dropped.5 The drop in employment was in deep mining during the same period while strip mining increased.

The Coal Counties

It is illuminating to look at the poverty rates of various coal producing counties in West Virginia, Kentucky, Virginia, and even in Tennessee. What becomes apparent is that the counties most heavily mined are often the poorest. Strip mining companies often use this to argue that the jobs they provide are important to the regions they strip. But given the billions of dollars worth of coal that has been torn and sold from these counties the poverty should not be so dire. If even
a 10th of the value taken from the counties in coal were reflected in tax dollars, income for county residents and other income these counties should be some of the richest in America--but the reality is the opposite.

West Virginia
Coal Counties

As of 2002 West Virginia was ranked .. two in coal production in the nation second only to Wyoming. In 2002 WVA produced 150.1 millions of tons of coal according to the U.S.DOE Coal Industry Annual 1993-2002.

As of 1999 Clay county was the 5th poorest in West Virginia, Lincoln was the 4th
and Mingo was 3rd with over 29.7 percent of that county's population living in poverty. McDowell is the poorest county in West Virginia and 28th poorest county in America with an average income of $10,174. Over 37.7 percent of the people in this county live in poverty.6 What do these West Virginina
counties have in common? Strip mining. These counties are some of the most
heavily mined in West Virginia.


West Virginia is 2nd in the nation in coal production; Kentucky is 3rd. Tennessee isn't even in the top ten. Of non-farm jobs, what is number one in Tennessee? Tourism. Of the top five industries in the State of Tennessee, tourism - not strip mining, is king. Mining isn't even in the top five. Travel and Tourism employs over 177,100 people in the state of Tennessee.7 Tourists do not come to see strip mines. Decimated streams that are bright orange as a result of strip mining do not attract fishermen. Tourists come to Tennessee because of our state's natural beauty, with good cause. Blasting the tops off of our tourist-drawing mountains for an industry that does not bring long term jobs to our state, undermines the number one sustainable employer in our state: tourism. Tennessee is 12th in the nation overall in tourism.8 This holds true even on a county by county analysis of Tennessee counties now catching the brunt of strip mining in Tennessee. These counties are Campbell, Claiborne, Scott and a chunk of Anderson county.

Campbell County

"Coal production is an important segment of our local economy."
Jerry E. Cross
Campbell County Mayor To OSM
No coal company is among the top 10 employers in Campbell county. In fact no coal company is even among the top 31 employers of Campbell county.9 Campbell is the 5th poorest in Tennessee with 22.8 % in poverty. The poverty rates in these Tennessee counties is similar to the poverty rates in other Appalachian counties that have had the "benefits" of King Coal. The state of Tennessee estimates that if you combine agriculture, forestry, fishing, hunting and mining as one sector it totals 2.4% of the economy in Campbell county.10 This suggest that if you substract fishing, hunting, forestry, and agriculture from Campbell county's economic base you get what is left of 2.4%. Given that some of the best hunting in Tennessee is in Campbell county and the Cumberland Plateau, it is safe to suggest that hunting alone is a significant bite out of that percentage. Arts, entertainment, recreation and food services represent over 7.1
percent of Campbell county's economic base. That's over triple the short term
money that strip mining brings in.

Retirement communities are a big industry moving into Campbell county.
Rarity Mountain Resort, is near Jellico, a small town located on the Tennessee-Kentucky state line. The project will combine a residential retirement community expected to include 1,000 new homes with first-class resort

Retirees are not moving to Tennessee counties so they can look out their window and see coal trucks, orange streams, and strip mines. Campbell county is part of the Governor Bredesen's Three- Star Program for Community Economic Preparedness. As a basic unit of this plan is a community beautification program. Blasted mountain tops and striped clearcut hills are not conducive to a beautification program.

Scott County

Scott county is the 9th poorest in Tennessee with 22.2 % of its citizens in poverty. In Scott county, combined mining (deep and surface) with fishing, hunting and agriculture is at 2.5% while the Arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation and food services, bring in 4.8% of the economy. Again, if you subtract hunting, fishing and agriculture from the percentage--and then substract deep mining--you see how little strip mining contributes to the county. Additionally, it is predictable how much damage strip mining is doing to the larger
economic contributers like hunting, fishing and tourism.

Anderson County

"Coal production is an important segment of our local economy. We support National Coal's initiative and will do what we can to ensure our region's economic contributions of the mining industry are preserved."

Rex Lynch
Anderson County Mayor. Letter to OSM

In Anderson county the agriculture/mining group is less than 0.7% of the county economy, while the Arts, entertainment and recreation is over 6.6% of the local economy--thats over 6 times the employment generated by this short term industry.12 Mining employed 231 people in Anderson county in 1990. If the experience of West Virginia and Kentucky repeats itself in Tennessee this number can be expected to DROP in Anderson, as well as Claiborne, Scott and Campbell counties as the strip mining accelerates.


The ultimate cost to both the state of Tennessee and the counties most impacted by destructive surface mining, is more than the short term loss of jobs, and the unsightly clearcutting and blasting that tourists are now seeing from planes as they fly into our state.

Additional cost include damage to roads from coal trucks, destruction of the natural beauty which attracts retirement communities and predictable detrimental effect that blowing up mountains and streams has on tourism. And when an industry that isn't even in the top 10 starts eroding the number one employer in a state its time for people to take a serious look at the economic consequences of strip mining.

There are additional downstream costs such as water purification to remove sediment, loss of habitat where people hunt, and destruction of highland watersheds; these details need to be taken into account when looking at the true cost of strip mining. When you look beneath the surface of strip mining it is not only destructive environmentally-- but it has a destructive impact on the hard nosed economics of the counties it strips. The coal companies may help a school out for PR--but beneath that there is a true cost, in jobs and dollars and cents, that the strippers are hoping Tennessee doesn't wake up to.

I have two sets of citations--one of them should match.


2. West Virginia Office of Miners Health, Safety and Training.

3. Source: U.S. DOE - EIA; Coal Industry Annual, 1993-2002, Coal Production, 1979-1992.


5. id


7. Source:
Tourist Development..s Annual
Report and Marketing Plan 2004-2005


9. U.S. Census Bureau

10 U.S. Census Bureau



[2] West Virginia Office of Miners Health, Safety and Training.

[3] Source: U.S. DOE - EIA; Coal Industry Annual, 1993-2002, Coal Production, 1979-1992.


[6] Id.


[8] Source:
Tourist Development..s Annual
Report and Marketing Plan 2004-2005


[10] U.S. Census Bureau


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