Mountaintop removal coal mining is a destructive practice that harms the people, places and economy of Tennessee.  

Important Actions You Can Take  

1.  Learn more about the issue THEN sign up for the TN Environmental Council Action Network Knowledge is power.  Scroll down the page for background information and GREAT links to websites and videos with more information about Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining in Tennessee.   We are particularly looking for people in the in the districts of Senators Southerland and Gardenhire and Repsresentatives Halford, McDaniel, Swann and Forgety.  (We have city and County lists on our website). These members of the House and Senate Natural Resources committees may be particularly helpful to our efforts.    

Click here to sign up for Council Action Alerts


2. Call, schedule a visit, or write a letter to your State Senator & State Representative. Don’t wait until you need something to start building relationships with your elected official.  NOW is the ideal time to schedule meetings to talk about the issues that are most important to you.   

Click here to sign onto a letter to the House and Senate Natural Resources Committee.   Copies of the letter will be sent to your representatives in the House and Senate.    

OR Write your own letter or schedule a visit or call to discuss this issue with your legislator 

Find your elected officials here. 

Click here for a letter template (MS Word) which you can edit and send to your Senator or Representative. We encourage you to personalize the letter and share your own stories.  Refer to our Advocacy Toolkit for additional suggestions and help in writing a letter.  Scroll down to learn about the 2013 bill – we expect a similar bill to be introduced in 2014.   

3.  Sign a petition: 

Sign online petition created by Harry Bryant a Council member  – For more information click here

Sign Petition

Sign online petition from Tennessee Conservation Voters  

Sign Petition


4.  Support a Federal Clean Water Protection Act:   The Clean Water Protection Act is a bill in the US House of Representatives which will sharply reduce mountaintop removal coal mining, protect clean drinking water for many of our nation’s cities. It will protect the quality of life for Appalachian coalfield residents who face frequent catastrophic flooding and pollution or loss of drinking water as a result of mountaintop removal coal mining.  Visit the I Love Mountains Website for details and to take action.

5. Reduce Your Energy Footprint:  Over 50% of our electricity supply in TN is coal-generated.  Reducing your energy footprint is one of the most important actions you can take to stop mountaintop removal coal mining and other negative consequences of energy production and use.  You can do this by conserving energy, using energy more efficiently, and signing up for the Green Power Switch program.


Background Info on Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining
Compiled by TN Alumni and Students for Sustainable Campuses  

LEAF Zeb Mountain RidgelineWhat is Mountaintop Removal?
Over the past 30 years, Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining (MTR) has destroyed more than 500 mountains and buried over 2000 miles of rivers and streams across Appalachia. More than one million acres, a land mass the size of Delaware, have been leveled by the coal industry in search of thin seams of coal. This extreme form of strip mining takes miners out of the mines and replaces them with explosives and large earth moving equipment.

While the vast majority of MTR is occurring in our neighboring states to the north, the coal industry has its sights set on the Volunteer State. Tennessee produces less than one percent of our nation’s coal, however 2/3 of that coal comes from destructive strip-mining practices. There are 15 active surface mines in Tennessee with many more on the target list.  (See map on bottom of page.)

The Economic Arguments Against MTR in Tennessee
Mountaintop removal coal mining takes miners out of the mines and replaces them with explosives and large earth moving equipment.Tennessee produces less than one percent of America’s coal, the majority of which is exported out of state and overseas. TVA purchases a mere .7 percent of its coal from TN mines. TN coal is less abundant and more expensive than any other coal mined in America – The market is just not there for TN coal.

Since 1990, mining jobs are down sixty-eight percent in Tennessee. During that same time period, the percentage of coal coming from strip mining operations in Tennessee has increased by forty-two percent. Fewer workers are needed at mountaintop mining sites.

In 2009 an independent study showed that Tennessee collected $1.1 million in tax revenues from the coal industry – accounting for less than one tenth of one percent of our state’s total tax revenues. The study also showed that coal related expenditures cost taxpayers approximately $1.6 million in state subsidies and expenses for mine regulation, reclamation, and road repairs. Essentially coal mining cost TN taxpayers $500,000.

Other examples throughout Appalachia reinforce the fact that mountaintop mining eliminates jobs. Over the past 30 years, coal production in West Virginia has increased by over 140 percent while more than 40,000 mining jobs have been lost. This is further evidence that MTR is not an economically viable solution for Tennessee.

Positioning Tennessee’s Heritage as an Economic Driver
Tennessee’s tourism industry generates nearly $14 billion annually for our state and supports over 175,000 TN jobs.

The Great Smoky Mountains National park is the most visited park in North America. The Smokies attract millions of tourists each year and support thousands of east TN jobs. People visit our state to enjoy the natural beauty and it doesn’t make sense to destroy the assets and jobs that drive our second largest industry.

The coal industry argues mountaintop mining creates jobs, which is simply not true based on the evidence across Appalachia. Destroying mountains and polluting our watersheds will have irreversible effects on the economies of our mountain communities.

There are more than 175,000 Tennesseans employed by the tourism industry compared to the 550 mining jobs that currently exist in Tennessee.

Health Consequences of Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining
Numerous medical studies show direct links between mountaintop removal mining and negative human health impacts. When a mountain is detonated, toxins including selenium, mercury, arsenic, lead, copper and chromium enter the air and surrounding watersheds. Human contact with streams and airborne toxins can result in elevated levels of chronic pulmonary disorders and hypertension amongst adults.

Studies show increased mortality rates, lung cancer, chronic heart, kidney and lung disease in MTR impacted communities.

In 2011, a study found that counties in and near mountaintop mining areas had higher rates of birth defects for five out of six types of birth defects, including circulatory/respiratory, musculoskeletal, central nervous system, gastrointestinal, and urogenital defects.

Tennesseans rank 42nd in the nation for overall health. Campbell County, the largest coal-producing county in TN, ranks 92 out of 95 counties for overall health.

International Concerns 
Tennessee has become the first state in the US to permit a Chinese owned company to purchase mineral rights and extract TN coal.  Knoxville News Article


Proposed Bills in TN to Limit MTR 

The following bills were introduced for the 2013 Legislative Session to limit this practice in Tennessee:

SB1139/HB0875:  Mining and Quarrying.  Sponsored by Norris/McCormick 

SB0099/HB0043:  Water Pollution.  Sponsored by Finney/Johnson & Jernigan  -The bill failed in the Senate due to “lack of motion” and in the House it was deferred to 2014.  Click here to read an article from the Nashville Scene with insights.  Please take a moment to call bill sponsors and co-sponsors

Additional Information on MTR

Appalachian Voices Campaign in Tennessee

LEAF Mountaintop Removal Fact Sheet

LEAF Mountaintop Removal Press and Legislative Toolkit 

TN Conservation Voters Fact Sheet  

Click here for a television ad 

Click here for the 2012 original version of the bill proposed by Eric Stewart

Click here for a scene from the film Kilowatt Ours which shows the destructive practice of MTR

Click here for Maps from LEAF.  12 Mountains may not sound like a lot, but when you see them on a map – or in person – the magnitude of the issue becomes clear.  See 2012 map below.      


Photos of Zeb Mountain and map above courtesy of LEAF