Keep Federal Oversight

Protecting Tennessee's mountains is far more valuable than destroying them.

Knoxville News Sentinel Supports Continued Federal Oversight of TN Coal Mining.

The Tennessee Mining Association has again proposed led the effort for Congress to pass a bill in 2018 that will have the state of Tennessee take over regulation of coal mining from the federal government. This new program will cost state taxpayers millions of dollars while allowing the coal-mining industry to further endanger Tennessee's water quality. Tennesseans should not allow taxpayer money to be spent for a new state regulatory program when a federal program already exists.

The "Primacy and Reclamation Act of Tennessee" (Senate Bill 0842 by Ken Yager, R-Kingston and House Bill 0833 by Dennis Powers R-Jacksboro), transfered all strip-mine permitting and oversight from the federal Office of Surface Mining (OSM) to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC), an agency already stretched thin both monetarily and in personnel, especially in their oversight of water pollution permits.

Primacy would be too costly for Tennessee in too many ways.

  • TDEC lacks both the capacity and funding to take on such an expensive permitting and enforcement program. TDEC's preliminary estimates were that a new program would cost nearly $500,000 to start up and $3.2 million annually with no guaranteed support from the federal government.
  • The coal industry itself--together with its direct and indirect employees - already cost Tennessee state taxpayers more than they provide. A 2010 report found that coal mining already has a net negative impact on the Tennessee state budget due to externalized costs and low pay.
  • Coal mined in Tennessee does not play an important role in the state's electricity generation and less than 3% of the coal burned at power plants in Tennessee was produced here.
  • Surface coal mining does not provide a significant source of employment in Tennessee. According to the U.S. Energy Information Association (EIA, 2020), only a handful of people are employed in surface mining of coal in Tennessee.
  • The mountains are one of the prime drivers of tourism in Tennessee, generating an economic impact of more than $15 billion and sustaining nearly 177,800 jobs. Coal's economic value pales in comparison.
  • Tennessee taxpayers should not foot the bill to keep a dying industry on life support. Coal mining is declining in Tennessee and throughout Appalachia. In Tennessee coal production has declined from 11.2 million tons in 1972 to approximately 9 thousand short tons in 2020 and Tennessee practically none of our nation's total coal production.


Contact Governor Bill Lee and tell him not to support this effort
Office of Governor Bill Lee
1st Floor, State Capitol
Nashville,  TN   37243   
Primary (615) 741-2001