UTC Teacher Fights to Protect TN Mountains

By Christina Stafford

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn (UTC/The Loop) – One UTC teacher’s passion for protecting Tennessee mountains and valleys has helped keep the issue in front of the public.

Jeannie Hacker-Cerulean has been an advocate to help stop the removal of mountain tops for coal mining since 2004.  “I care about the water and I want to protect the clean water cycle,” she said. “When I heard the about mountain top removal and how it pollutes the water with heavy metals, I decided to become a mountain justice worker,” the UTC faculty member said.

Cerulean and others who work for an end to mountain top removal have been to Nashville to lobby the State Senate. “I am personal correspondents with some of the senators,” Cerulean said. She said she makes mailing labels to give out to people to write the senators to express what they think about the issue. She said she also puts posters up with the labels on them all around the Chattanooga area to raise awareness.

“Mrs. Cerulean brought a student advocate from MTSU to talk about the mining to my advocacy and debate class she teaches.” Alyssah Martin, Soddy Daisy junior, said. “The whole class could tell this is something she is truly passionate about.”

College students can get involved in the cause to end mountain top removal. “Universities in Tennessee, including UTC’s EDGE (Ecological Decisions for a Global Environment) group, are getting involved and contribute greatly to the cause,” Cerulean said.

Students have protested by sitting in trees to stop them from being cut down and cleaning tree sitting as well as helping to clean up the communities that are affected by coal mining.  Students are also involved by talking about the issue in their schools and hometowns, Cerulean said.

Some students believe it is a worthy cause. “It’s good to know there are opportunities out there for college students to take action on something so important,” Tiffany Reed, Cookeville sophomore, said.

If passed, the Tennessee Scenic Vistas Protection bill will end mountain top removal of ridges over 2000 feet in Tennessee, Cerulean said. She said she thinks state senators are listening about the issue.

More than 1,000 mountains have been destroyed since the 1970s in Appalachian Mountains states. These mountains are being targeted for coal mining that results in more job opportunities in small communities “Though the new jobs in the communities are a great thing, people’s health and the environment are at risk,” Cerulean said.

The stream buffer zone rule was set in 1983. This rule says that coal-mining companies cannot operate within 100 feet of streams. “Mining companies still dump the waste in streams,” Cerulean said.

In 2009, a new buffer zone rule was set in motion requiring mining companies to not dump the waste in the valleys, Cerulean said.

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