“Earth Day is a good day to save our mountaintops,” U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said Tuesday in remarks on the Senate floor. “We live in Tennessee, where millions visit us because of the natural beauty of our landscape. They don’t come to see smog, or creeks polluted by mountaintop mining, or ridge-top wind turbines three times as tall as Neyland Stadium, which, with their transmission lines, would create a junkyard in the sky.
“The American landscape is a part of our environment. It is essential to the American character. From John Muir and Theodore Roosevelt to Lady Bird Johnson, generations have worked to protect it. Now some of the same groups that have worked hardest to protect the landscape are neglecting it in pursuit of remedies for climate change.”
Alexander cited three steps he is taking to help protect the landscape:
• Alexander and Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.) are introducing legislation to put stiffer controls on sulfur, nitrogen, and mercury emissions from coal plants. “We have the technology to make the air cleaner, and we should be using it. There is no need to delay dealing with sulfur, nitrogen, and mercury while we figure out what to do about carbon,” Alexander said.
• Alexander and Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) have introduced legislation to ban the practice of blowing off the tops of mountains to mine coal and dumping the waste in streams. “Coal is essential to our energy future,” Alexander said, “but we’ll create many more jobs by saving our mountaintops to attract tourists than we will by blowing them up to find coal—especially because Tennessee produces less than 2 percent of the nation’s coal.”
• Alexander and Representative Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) hosted a forum last week in Knoxville highlighting TVA’s choices for renewable electricity. “Conservation and nuclear power are the realistic options for clean electricity for our region,” Alexander said. “But solar for the longer term, underwater river turbines, biomass, and methane from landfills are all good choices, too.”
“On the other hand, the idea of polluting the landscape with 500-foot wind turbines and their transmission lines is really preposterous,” Alexander continued. “It makes no sense to destroy the environment in the name of saving the environment, especially since the wind only blows 18 percent of the time at TVA’s one wind farm—and much of that is at night when TVA already has thousands of megawatts of unused electricity. TVA could take the $60 million it is spending to buy five megawatts of unreliable wind power and instead buy 10 fluorescent light bulbs for every TVA household, which, if used, would save 920 megawatts of reliable power—the equivalent of an entire nuclear plant.”
Alexander said he and Senator Carper will host a roundtable Thursday in the Capitol on their legislation to establish stiff standards for sulfur, nitrogen, and mercury. "TVA needs to go ahead and put sulfur, nitrogen, and mercury controls on all the large coal plants it intends to keep open," Alexander said, “but TVA actions alone will not be enough to give us clean air in the Great Smoky Mountains and east Tennessee. We need strong national standards like those in our legislation because much of our dirty air blows in from coal power plants in other states."
During each two-year Congress since he has been a senator, Alexander has introduced legislation to curb pollutants from coal plants, including carbon.