The Commercial Appeal: Editorial: Hope for the mountains

Posted on November 29, 2010

East Tennessee's Zeb Mountain could be the last ridgeline to be lost to coal mining in Tennessee if efforts by Gov. Phil Bredesen and Sen. Lamar Alexander are successful.

Mountaintop mining in one of the state's most vulnerable areas -- the upper Cumberland Plateau -- would be off limits in a proposal put forward by Bredesen.

After meeting with Alexander on the issue, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has granted a comprehensive review that includes a study of the area.

Although limited to "ridgelines on lands with public interest on the Northern Cumberland Plateau," the ban proposed by Bredesen would be an important discouragement for mining interests with an eye on Tennessee.

Mining coal by blasting the tops off mountains, even when the debris is not pushed off into adjoining valleys, creates pockmarked moonscapes that detract from recreational opportunities, pollute streams and kill wildlife.

It is one of the most shortsighted practices among mining interests, providing short-term profits while limiting the quality of life and economic prospects for generations to come.