mining

Legislators vote for state takeover of coal mining regulation from feds

Following a four-year push by Tennessee’s coal mining industry, both the House and Senate have now approved legislation to have the state Department of Environment and Conservation assume oversight of the industry from the federal Office of Surface Mining.

The House approved the bill (SB686) on Monday on a vote of 69-20 while the Senate gave assent 25-4 back on March 12. The House added an amendment that will send the measure back to the Senate for anticipated concurrence.

Tennessee surrendered oversight of coal mining – called “primacy” in the industry — to the federal government 34 years ago. Sponsors Sen. Ken Yager (R-Kingston) and Rep. Dennis Powers (R-Jacksboro) say Tennessee is now the only coal-mining state in the nation that doesn’t operate its own program of issuing permits and enforcing regulations.

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Feds ban mountaintop coal mining on 75,000 acres in East TN

The federal government on Wednesday banned mountaintop coal mining from more than 500 miles of ridges in East Tennessee’s Cumberland Mountains, reports Michael Collins. The move was praised by Tennessee’s environmental commissioner and U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander as well as conservation groups – though condemned by mining officials.

The Department of Interior said it is designating nearly 75,000 acres of mountain ridges as unsuitable for surface mining, in essence barring a controversial form of mining known as mountaintop removal. (Note: The department’s press release, with much comment, is HERE.)

…The decision comes in response to a petition filed in 2010 by then-Gov. Phil Bredesen, just three months before he left office. In its petition, the state said mountaintop coal mining would be incompatible with existing local and state plans and would affect fragile or historic lands that would result in significant damage to cultural, scientific, aesthetic values or natural systems.

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