State Sen. Raymond Finney was awarded the 2008 Genesis Award from the Lindquist Environmental Appalachian Fellowship
LEAF honored Finney on Sunday, July 21, during a brief ceremony at the Blount County Public Library for his “commitment to protecting Tennessee’s natural heritage and God’s creation,” according to LEAF press release.
“I was very humbled and appreciative of that award,” Finney said. “It was meaningful to me in two ways. One was the recognition of this very worthy environmental protection legislation, and, second, was the recognition of honoring God through some of the actions we take with the world he gives us.”
Information about the award indicates that this year marks the first presentation of the Genesis Award, which will be given annually to community leaders who have demonstrated an outstanding devotion to safeguarding God’s creation in Tennessee.
During the 2008 legislative session, Finney sponsored the Tennessee Scenic Vistas Protection Act (SB 3822), a bill designed to protect the state’s mountains by prohibiting surface coal mining that alters or disturbs ridgelines at elevations higher than 2,000 feet above sea level.
High elevation surface coal mining is a method of extracting coal from mountains by using explosives to provide easy access to coal seams, but irreparably damaging the mountain.
Finney said the bill came about as a way to protect the 128,000 acres of Cumberland Mountain that the state bought to preserve. The bill passed in a Senate Environmental Committee but failed in the State House. “The coal companies purchased the timber and mineral rights ahead of us, so we may have bought a moonscape,” he said. “We tried very hard and failed.”
Dawn Coppock, executive director of LEAF, said it is critical to protect the natural beauty God has given. “Sen. Finney works hard to ensure Tennessee’s natural resources are protected for future generations,” she said. “Environmental stewardship is not a partisan issue. It’s about protecting creation. Because Sen. Finney is a public servant who looks past political party affiliation in order to do what’s best for Tennessee. We owe him a tremendous debt of gratitude, particularly for his courageous work on behalf of the Tennessee Scenic Vistas Protection Act.”
Knoxville-based LEAF, a faith-based nonprofit organization created to encourage fellow Christians to take action to conserve Tennessee’s natural beauty, has generated widespread public support for Finney’s Tennessee Scenic Vistas Protection Act.
Thousands of concerned citizens called and wrote letters to state leaders expressing concern about mountaintop removal in Tennessee during the 2008 legislative session. Tennessee currently has at least four active, and 13 proposed, mountaintop removal sites.