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Tennessee mountains

NASHVILLE -- In advance of legislative hearings today on a bill banning "mountaintop" removal of coal in the state, the Tennessee Conservative Union on Tuesday launched a blistering ad attack on the practice and charged the Volunteer State will "become the first state in America to permit a communist Chinese company to destroy our mountains."

TCU Chairman Lloyd Daugherty said, "Every Tennessean, regardless of political affiliation, should be appalled by the idea of allowing the red Chinese to destroy the very mountains crossed by Daniel Boone."

While Tennessee is "a proud red [Republican] state ... the Tennessee Conservative Union is not willing to go that red," Daugherty said.

He noted that while the group, which bills itself as the state's largest and oldest conservative group, is "100 percent pro-coal, [however] our organization does not support destroying our mountain heritage."

He charged that using explosives on ridges above 2,000 feet "kills mining jobs because it takes fewer workers to blow up a mountain."

The ad alludes to a Wall Street Journal MarketWatch article from last May that revealed China-based Guizhou Gouchuang Energy Holdings Group said it had raised $616 million in a private placement to be used mainly to acquire and develop Triple H Coal Co. in Jacksboro, Tenn.

That would make Guizhou Gouchuang the first Chinese company to invest in coal in America, MarketWatch reported.

Tuesday night, Triple H's operations manager, Alex Housley, said in a telephone interview that the family owned company is being sold.

"We are what you might say a Chinese company," Housley said. "The guy who's putting [the deal] together is a U.S. citizen who lives in Los Angeles. They [TCU] are blowing it out of proportion is what they're doing."

Housley said, "We're borrowing money from China. Of course, that's only where you can get any money. The U.S. borrows money from China, why can't we?"

He said the company is going "to mine here and we're going to sell in the U.S. But like anybody else we're going to look at the Asian market."

Asked about the TCU's opposition, Housley said, "Nothing surprises me in America anymore.

"America's going against the founders," he added.

He said environmental groups have "been bashing coal and now they're bashing natural gas," which he said they once supported to replace coal.

Daugherty said TCU's position is different from what he calls "radical environmentalists" because the group does support coal mining -- just not "blowing the tops off mountains."

TCU's position drew applause from Appalachian Voices, an environmental group, but environmentalists are playing down "save Tennessee mountains from communist China" issue.

"It doesn't matter if somebody is from Beijing or Bristol, we don't think they should be blowing up mountains," Appalachian Voices said in a posting on its website.

It called the TCU a "radically right-wing group."

Contact staff writer Andy Sher at asher@timesfree or 615-255-0550.