Next governor must protect the state’s resources
The second in a series of op-eds ( read the first with Tennessee Disability Coalition) from Tennessee Citizen Action’s Kris Murphy and friends. This time it’s Penny Brooks from the Sierra Club and Tennessee Conservation Voters asking the next governor to protect the state’s valuable resources:
“There is still something to save in Tennessee” said the head of a local branch of a national conservation organization to the House Environment Committee, explaining why he moved here from the Midwest.
“Yes, there is,” would be the echo of every citizen of Tennessee who visits the countryside or state parks or boats our abundant streams and rivers. Yet each January, when the state legislature convenes, millions of Tennesseans should hold their collective breaths. The fate of the state is at stake and anything can happen.
For example, our legislature continues to allow coal companies to use mountaintop removal to mine coal. It literally takes the tops off of mountains and dumps what is extracted into the valleys below, destroying streams and habitat and vistas.
The bills to limit this practice come up every year in the legislature but are defeated by legislators who are beholden to the big money lobbyists of the coal industry, or even legislators’ own interests in some of the biggest polluters. Will our next governor fight against legislators who care only for the polluters and not the Tennessee families who suffer?
Fifteen hundred streams in Tennessee are “impaired,” meaning that they are polluted beyond acceptable limits for healthy and safe use.
Will our next governor support those legislators who fight for the regulation and enforcement necessary to keep our waters clean?
Coal ash seems like an innocent byproduct of burning coal — like the ashes left from a fire in your fireplace, except, instead of wood, the ashes are from burning coal.
Think of wet coal ash, instead, as a soupy mess of gunk laced with cadmium, selenium, arsenic, mercury, lead, thallium, beryllium and arsenic. About 1,000 tons were released from the Kingston plant every day until the containment pond broke and released its contents into the Emory River. The full extent of effects on human health are still not fully understood.
The good news is that so far, some of the damage to our environment can be reversed with great effort, but how many mountains can we afford to lose while the legislature procrastinates in fixing the laws and the regulations?
How many streams will we let be polluted? How many lives can we sacrifice? Yet every year we get closer to fixing these problems, thanks to the lobbying efforts of environmental organizations and the involvement of thousands of Tennesseans who care.
Until then, mountains are gone forever, families have been forced to move because of coal ash spills, and children are drinking tainted water. These are just a few of the effects of Tennessee’s poor record of environmental protections.
For far too long, our legislature has let polluters poison the air our children breathe and the water they drink; they have let mining companies blow apart mountains that have stood since the beginning of time; and they have let coal companies destroy our land with toxic byproducts.
It is time for our next governor to stand up to the companies destroying Tennessee and fight to make sure our children have a safe and beautiful place to grow up.