General Assembly approves Primacy and Reclamation Act allowing Tennessee to reclaim control over state’s surface mining coal industry

(NASHVILLE), April 11, 2018 – Legislation allowing Tennessee to reclaim control of the state’s surface coal mining industry has passed the House of Representatives.  The Primacy and Reclamation Act, sponsored by Senator Ken Yager (R-Kingston) and Representative Dennis Powers (R-Jacksboro), brings direct oversight to the state through a system of issuing permits and enforcing regulations by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC).

The Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation, and Enforcement (OSM) within the U.S. Department of the Interior was given the authority to control surface mining in Tennessee 34 years ago.

“Tennessee is the only actively producing coal state that does not regulate itself and instead is regulated by the Office of Surface Mining in the federal government,” said Senator Yager.  “Being regulated by the federal government has put our state’s coal mining industry at a competitive disadvantage, which has a negative impact on job creation in some of the state’s most economically distressed counties.  The Primacy and Reclamation Act of Tennessee maintains stringent environmental control over coal mining, while providing an opportunity for the state to control its own destiny, stimulate investment and create jobs.”

“By bringing direct oversight to the state through TDEC, Tennessee’s coal mining industry will gain permit predictability, benefit from local regulation and enforcement, and be on a level playing field with other states across the nation,” said Rep. Powers.  “Since Tennessee is blessed with a variety of coal that can be used for steelmaking in the industrial process and as part of the silicon market, we still have a lot of future left for Tennessee coal mining.”

The legislation makes clear that all funding for primacy will come from the federal government and the surface coal mining industry.  Yager and Powers have worked with members of the Haslam and Trump administrations and Tennessee’s congressional delegation to identify potential sources of funding.  Once the program is up and running, the legislation provides that ongoing costs will be split evenly between the federal government and fees assessed on the industry.

“We feel very strong that these opportunities will come to bear and allow us to overtake the direct regulation of coal mining in Tennessee,” added Sen. Yager.  “However, if the federal funding does not come through then the state will not be obligated to implement or run the primacy program.”

“For too long, we have allowed the federal government to dictate the direction of this important industry in our state. I am pleased that this measure will restore Tennessee’s authority over it, and I know it will lead to the creation of quality jobs that will allow Tennessee to continue its recent economic momentum,” Rep. Powers concluded.


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