Kaid Benfield Archive


Boycotting Dolly’s Tennessee mountains to keep pollution alive

Kaid Benfield

Posted August 7, 2009 at 1:32PM

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This isn't usually my beat, but as someone who grew up in western North Carolina, the southern Appalachians (pronounced with a flat "a" in the third syllable, thanks) mean a great deal to me.  And, like a lot of normal people, I am increasingly distressed that coal companies are literally blowing the tops off mountains now because it's apparently the cheapest way to get at coal, a dwindling resource that is itself fraught with environmental issues.

My colleague Rob Perks blogs on the issue with regularity, and last week one of his posts particularly caught my eye: a bunch of coal companies are pressing a boycott of Dolly Parton's famous Dollywood resort and other Tennessee tourist attractions because of a Congressional bill co-sponsored by the state's Senator Lamar Alexander, a Republican.  As Rob points out, Alexander's bill would do nothing to stop coal mining, even by mountaintop removal: it's "meant to protect water quality by stopping coal companies from dumping toxic mining waste into valley streams, which is poisoning drinking water and killing fish throughout Appalachia." 

For a wonderful vision of what's at stake, check out this short video of the Tennessee mountains, with Dolly's classic "My Tennessee Mountain Home" in the background:


As the Senator himself puts it, it "sounds like they are saying we are not going to see you unless you let us blow off the top of your mountains and dump them in streams and that's a pretty unusual message."  Really.

Now, there's not a lot of coal in Tennessee (North Carolina was mined out a century ago), but there's a lot in some nearby states, and the flow of contaminated water doesn't respect state boundaries.  And there is still some mining in northeastern Tennessee.  Bravo to Alexander for taking a stand. 

The fact that the coal guys want to hurt the Senator by hurting his constituents speaks volumes about their ethics.  I won't write more about the issue, which really isn't my expertise.  But you don't have to be an expert to love the mountains the way they are, thank you.  Check out Rob's blog for lots of information about what's going on.

And, if you like Dolly as much as I do, stay for a minute and a half to see this video, too, featuring Dolly on lap dulcimer.  It's even better musically than the one above: