Tennessee kicks out coal, welcomes tourists instead

In case you haven’t heard, Coal-Mac, a subsidiary of St. Louis-based Arch Coal, has been encouraging its employees to boycott Tennessee, because the state is unfriendly to mountaintop removal.

From the NRDC Switchboard:

In a letter to local Chambers of Commerce, the company warns: “[I]f you want our industry’s business, we suggest you let your representatives know that the industry they are trying to destroy is a major source of your tourism money.”

The letter also notes that two other out-of-state Arch subsidiarues have cancelled their annual company picnics to Dollywood this year.  Apparently, a pro-MTR group called Citizens for Coal is joining in by asking all of its members to also boycott Tennessee travel.

Yeah, nothing screams “revenge” like canceling picnics.  Somehow, I don’t think blowing up the mountains that tourists come to see would help Tennessee’s tourist industry, and apparently state lawmakers feel the same way.  Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) is a proud co-sponsor of the bipartisan Appalachia Restoration Act (S. 696), which would effectively ban MTR.

Just to put things in perspective, here are some facts gathered by the NRDC:

  • There are fewer than 6,000 miners in Tennessee whereas the tourism industry employs more than 177,000
  • Tennessee’s tourism contributes roughly $14 billion to the state’s economy every year
  • Kentucky spends an estimated $115 million more public money to support and subsidize the coal industry than it receives in state revenues from the industry
  • The coal industry actually ends up costing the Appalachian region roughly $42 billion (in terms of the value of premature deaths attributable to the mining industry across the coalfields)

    Economics aside, I enthusiastically applaud Tennessee for standing up to King Coal.  I have visited the Smoky Mountains, and this is what they look like:



    This is what mountaintop removal looks like:

    MTR Sept 17-21.JPG

    Need I say more?


    5 thoughts on “Tennessee kicks out coal, welcomes tourists instead

    1. I must disagree with Tennessee’s stand on this. The employes of Tennessee’s tourism’s industry pays its employees what minimum wage and the coal industry pays much, much higer wages. That is why WV. isn’t in the same shape as rest of the country. If you people would get educated on mountain top removal you might actually be capable of realizing that you are wrong about your veiws.

      • Thank you for commenting. I welcome readers who voice their thoughts, even if they disagree with me.

        You made a good point that the coal industry may be more profitable for its employees than the tourism industry is. However, I don’t see how that makes opposition to mountaintop removal wrong.

        Since that article was meant mainly as a news update, let me clarify my position on MTR.

        While I provided photos for illustrative purposes, my disagreement with MTR is not just aesthetic. Coal mining pollutes drinking water, dries up wells, and buries streams. Sludge is stored in impoundments, which can leek toxins such as lead and arsenic. These dams sometimes breach and spill millions of gallons of toxic waste. When the disasters are cleaned up, the sludge is dumped in some of the nations poorest communities, where it may continue to contaminate soil and water.

        Even if you ignore the impacts of mining, coal is still the dirtiest energy source, releasing pollutants and helping fuel climate change when it is burned. Expanding coal energy is a step in the wrong direction, when funds could be better spent on cleaner energy sources.

        These are my reasons for opposing MTR. Having said all that, I would be glad to “get educated” if you would specify what and where I should learn more about the issue.

      • I read the brochure, and it’s encouraging to see that a representative of the coal industry at least respects environmental concerns.
        Perhaps “blowing the tops of mountains” is not the best word choice.

        If the brochure is accurate and honest, then MTR (or “mountaintop mining,” if you prefer) is not as destructive as it often thought to be, though mining waste is still an issue. But I have to say that for a company that sells mining machinery to publish information on the impact of mining might present a small conflict of interest.

        Regardless of the mining method, I personally don’t believe that coal has a place in our energy future, although valid economic concerns must be handled responsibly.

        Thanks for providing the link. I like to understand both sides of these issues.

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