Earthbytes: Historic Petition to Protect Tennessee’s Mountain Tops Clears First Hurdle

Earthbytes: Historic Petition to Protect Tennessee’s Mountain Tops Clears First Hurdle.

Woohoo! The North Cumberland Lands Unsuitable for Mining Petition (LUMP) filed by Tennessee’s Governor Phil Bredesen on October 1st now has the blessing of the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM) to move on through the system.

In letters to officials in the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Earl Bandy, director of the Knoxville Field Office of OSM, declared that the petition was “administratively complete.”

Here’s the text of a press release that went out from Statewide Organizing for Community ePowerment (SOCM):

Lake City, Tenn. (Nov. 23) – Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment, formerly Save Our Cumberland Mountains, is commending the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM) and Gov. Bredesen for its decision to deem the North Cumberland Lands Unsuitable for Mining Petition (LUMP) as “administratively complete.”  Today, the petition to protect public land in Anderson, Campbell, Morgan and Scott counties from surface coal mining operations has cleared its first major procedural hurdle. A process of evaluation and public comment will lead to a final determination by OSM.

“If approved, surface mining would be prohibited within the area designated under the North Cumberland LUMP, protecting many of Tennessee’s mountaintops and helping to keep some of the state’s world-class, biodiverse ecosystems intact.  Such protections are important because over the long term, it is healthy land, air and water that support thriving communities and economies,” said Cathie Bird, SOCM E3 Committee Chair.

“SOCM commends Governor Bredesen for a well-crafted petition that not only has so far passed muster, but contributes toward a healthy future for people, business and the environment in Tennessee. This is an historical step that represents a turning point in coal production in Tennessee,” said Bird.

In 2000, after years of exhaustive work by SOCM members, OSM granted a LUM to protect the Fall Creek Falls State Park and its watersheds. SOCM will continue to closely monitor the progress of the North Cumberland LUMP.

SOCM is a 38-year-old social, economic and environmental justice issues group.

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Many of SOCM’s members — including me — will be directly impacted by the outcome of OSM’s ultimate decision on the North Cumberland LUMP. The Royal Blue unit of the North Cumberlands Wildlife Management Area is one of my closest neighbors. I was standing within Royal Blue’s boundaries when I heard the call from Nature (no, not THAT kind of call) to speak for protection of the natural communities here.

In that light, I am very appreciative of Governor Bredesen’s efforts, as well as those of Senator Lamar Alexander, who supports the North Cumberlands LUMP and sponsored (with Sen. Cardin of Maryland) the Appalachia Restoration Act (S 696) that calls for protection all of Appalachia’s mountains and streams.

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