Feds move to ban mountaintop removal in part of TN

The federal government is moving closer to granting Tennessee’s request to ban mountaintop mining in parts of the Cumberland Mountains, which was filed years ago under former Gov. Phil Bredesen’s administration.

Further from the 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.

Specifically, the draft proposal and draft Environmental Impact Statement would place 67,000 acres in the North Cumberland Wildlife Management Area and the Emory River Tract Conservation Easement off-limits to surface mining.

Re-mining would be allowed in certain areas once mining companies obtain all the necessary permits and authorizations.

“We took Tennessee’s request to act on this matter very seriously,” said Glenda Owens, the agency’s deputy director. “Our staff rigorously evaluated Tennessee’s petition and the impacts of mining in the requested area.”

A final decision won’t be made until after a 45-day public comment period that will end next Jan. 25, the agency said in a news release.

Mountaintop removal is a form of surface mining in which the top of a mountain is blasted away so workers can access coal seams. The rubble is then dumped into adjacent valleys. The process allows coal companies to economically access seams otherwise too small to mine near the tops of ridges.

In 2010, then-Gov. Phil Bredesen petitioned the federal government to ban mountaintop mining in the North Cumberland Plateau. The affected land is in Scott, Morgan, Anderson and Campbell counties, all of which is included in wildlife management areas that make up the North Cumberland Wildlife Management Area.

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