Friday, December 11, 2015

Feds propose banning mountaintop removal in parts of East Tennessee's Cumberland Mountains

Mountaintop removal could soon be banned in parts of Appalachian Tennessee, Michael Collins reports for the Knoxville News Sentinel. "The federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement released draft documents on Thursday that would designate portions of East Tennessee’s mountain ridges as unsuitable for surface coal mining . . . A final decision won’t be made until after a 45-day public comment period that will end next Jan. 25." (SOCM photo by Karen Kasmauski: Zeb Mountain coal mine in Campbell County, Tennessee)

Proposals "would place 67,000 acres in the North Cumberland Wildlife Management Area and the Emory River Tract Conservation Easement off-limits to surface mining," Collins writes. "Re-mining would be allowed in certain areas once mining companies obtain all the necessary permits and authorizations."

"In 2010, then-Gov. Phil Bredesen petitioned the federal government to ban mountaintop mining in the North Cumberland Plateau," Collins writes. The affected land "is included in wildlife management areas that make up the North Cumberland Wildlife Management Area. The state’s petition asked for a 600-foot buffer on either side of ridgetops where mining cannot occur in the Royal Blue, Sundquist and New River units. Much of the area drains into the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area."

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