Question of the Week: Strip-Mining in Tennesee

An episode of panel talk show 'Question of the Week' in which residents of rural Tennessee discuss the effects of strip mining by the AMAX Coal Company on their community.

00:04Copy video clip URL An announcer welcomes viewers to JC Question of the Week, an “award-winning, top-rated public affairs program, now in its 16th year, sponsored by the Chattanooga JC’s and presented by your RCA distributor.” 

00:31Copy video clip URL Host Bill Raines introduces the program, where this week’s discussion will be about strip mining. The guests are James Shocklee of Piney, TN, Linda Smotherman, also of Piney, and George Brozie, from Sequatchie, TN. The JC questioner and moderator is Dr. David Brodsky. Raines discusses “Project Independence,” an effort begun by the Nixon administration to reduce dependence on foreign sources of energy, including a renewed focus on coal that resulted in widespread adoption of strip mining practices. 

02:24Copy video clip URL Brozie begins the discussion by explaining the process of strip mining and its effects: “Basically, it has three effects. One effect is that sulfuric acid is released into the water in the whole area. Whenever it rains, the pyrite layer above the cola has a chemical reaction and sulfuric acid is released into the water table. That’s called acid mine drainage. A second impact that it has is that it builds up silt in the watershed. That’s just little particles of dirt, really. And that fills up stream beds and causes flooding if nothing is done about it. The third impact is on the land itself. The topsoil has been removed and now it’s a different kind of dirt on top.” He then discusses the Tennessee state laws regulating these effects but notes the limitations of those laws, including the lack of personnel to enforce them. 

05:25Copy video clip URL The comparison of strip mining and deep mining, in terms of effects and cost. 

06:03Copy video clip URL Shocklee observes that if a coal company is granted strip mining near a town such as Piney, under the present law the residents have no choice but to move out of the area.

07:10Copy video clip URL The compensation offered by the company for damage caused by strip mining and for forced relocation. 

07:45Copy video clip URL The positive aspects of strip mining: inexpensive supply of energy and employment. Smotherman counters by observing that the jobs are primarily going to union members who do not live in the affected communities and that the actual number of people who are employed by strip mining is very small compared to the size of the affected communities.

08:40Copy video clip URL An advertisement for RCA ColorTrak, cut off after a few seconds. 

08:47Copy video clip URL Brodsky notes that strip mining policies are different in West Germany, where the coal companies were required to not only pay for relocation but to fully reconstruct the original town. 

09:23Copy video clip URL Who should bear the cost of strip mining regulations? Shocklee believes that the people who use coal should pay the actual cost of its production. He discusses the specific case of AMAX, a company with assets of $7 billion, whose coal is largely exported to Japan. 

10:30Copy video clip URL The possibilities of equitably distributing the cost of repairing the land and returning it to a habitable state. Smotherman believes that the cost should be born by the coal companies. Shocklee observes that there’s no law requiring coal companies to do any repairs to the land.

11:35Copy video clip URL President Ford’s veto of legislation to regulate strip mining. Goals for the reasonable regulation of strip mining that would allow for the protection of local communities while permitting the coal companies to profit. Shocklee discusses legislation that allows coal companies to mine on property owned by someone else (the inhabitants who own “surface rights”) if the company has purchased the “mineral rights.” He discusses efforts to amend that legislation. 

14:25Copy video clip URL Ad for RCA ColorTrak XL-100: “The TV that thinks in color.” 

15:00Copy video clip URL Discussion of the conflicts between the ownership of mineral rights and surface rights, and the legal prioritization of mineral rights at the expense of residents living on the land. 

16:59Copy video clip URL What happens when a coal mining company fails to comply with the law. The difficulties for residents to ensure the enforcement of the law, including the expense of lawyers. 

17:40Copy video clip URL Efforts at legislation. Shocklee discusses AMAX’s holdings in southern Cumberland and holds up a sign with instructions for residents to write to Commissioner B.R. Allison from the Tennessee Dept. of Conservation, 2611 West End Ave, Nashville, Tennessee, 37203 to demand that he not grant a permit to AMAX unless they comply with the law. He discusses further legislative efforts. 

21:15Copy video clip URL AMAX paying the state $74,000 to relocate a road. 

22:11Copy video clip URL Water quality control laws being the only federal regulations pertaining to strip mining. The limitations of the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority. 

23:24Copy video clip URL What the land could otherwise be used for if it was not strip mined or if it was restored after strip mining. 

24:30Copy video clip URL Citizen organization to protect their lives and their communities. 

25:45Copy video clip URL Conclusion of the program. The announcer recites final credits. 



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