Rep. Mike McDonald’s amendment to ban mountain top removal mining was approved unanimously (10-0) in the House environmental subcommittee today. So why is Mike so upset?
Here’s why: Right after they voted to ban the practice, Representative Joe McCord (R-Maryville), chair of the full committee, motioned to adjourn for the year, thus stopping a vote on the bill itself. Rep McCord stated:
“We have made very clear for the past three weeks, I think, the speakers have asked us to close committee. We have made very clear that we’re not going to take action on bills that are not moving in the Senate.”
Of course, the Senate version has been on their Environment Committee agenda for three weeks, but that committee didn’t meet this week. As McCord’s statement makes clear, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey has made sure that bill won’t go anywhere either. Channel 5’s recent report suggests a 195,000 reasons why he might do such a thing. (Careful readers will note Diane Black’s non-recollection of her role in killing an earlier version of this bill.)
Mike was understandably incensed:
“I’ve never seen it happen. When you adopt an amendment that [re]makes the bill, normally you take a vote on the bill, because the amendment’s been adopted. But this was a tactic, I hope the people of Tennessee see it exactly for what it is, just a tactic, so the committee would not have to vote on the bill itself.”
So through a unprecedented procedural manipulation, King Coal comes out on top for another year, TN’s citizens are exposed to tons of arsenic, selenium, and all the other pollutants that wash downstream… and about 2,200 square miles of TN’s mountains will go from this to this by 2012, never to return.
UPDATE 4/1/2010: Coming through on an Obama campaign pledge, the EPA has announced strict new guidelines that will severely limit, if not eliminate, mountain top removal and stream fill. Maybe the TN General Assembly will pass attempt to pass a meaningless “Tennessee Mining Freedom Act”.