Monthly Archives: October 2015
SUIT MAKES SUN SHINE BRIGHTER ON KENTUCKY MINING POLLUTION
From: Waterkeeper Magazine Volume 11, Issue 2
By Waterkeeper Alliance Attorney Pete Harrison
Waterkeeper Alliance and Kentucky Riverkeeper joined a coalition of
citizens’ groups in filing a federal lawsuit against Frasure Creek Mining,
LLC, for submitting to the State of Kentucky more than 100 false waterpollution-
monitoring reports on its coalmines in the state. These reports
are intended to ensure that companies stay within the permitted limits
for pollutants, but Frasure Creek reports hid nearly 20,000 violations of
the federal Clean Water Act. The violations carry a maximum penalty of
more than $700 million.
The Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet share culpability
with the company, having failed for years to take action against mounting
violations, which occurred at mountaintop-removal coal mines in Floyd,
Magoffin, Pike and Knott counties in eastern Kentucky.
“Self-reported data are the backbone of Clean Water Act
enforcement,” says Alice Howell, of the Sierra Club’s Cumberland
(Kentucky) Chapter. “When companies like Frasure Creek submit false
data it completely undermines all the protections we have in place to
make sure our water is safe.”
Frasure Creek, once Kentucky’s largest producer of coal from
mountain-top-removal mining, is a subsidiary of Essar Group, a multibillion-
dollar international corporation based in India.
“By all indications, this case looks like the biggest criminal
conspiracy to violate the federal Clean Water Act in the history of that
law,” says Waterkeeper Alliance attorney Pete Harrison. The coalition also
includes Appalachian Voices, Kentuckians For The Commonwealth, and
the Sierra Club.
Frasure Creek has long been guilty of false reporting. Almost five
years ago, citizens’ groups uncovered falsified pollution reports that
led to two cases against the company, which have yet to be resolved. In
both cases, the cabinet reached slap-on-the-wrist settlements with the
company, pre-empting citizen involvement. After a Kentucky judge threw
out those settlements last December, the cabinet appealed the ruling.
That case continues. Meanwhile, in January, the cabinet initiated action
against the company. The citizens’ groups have filed to intervene in that
action to ensure that the State of Kentucky appropriately enforces the law.
“Our state officials have turned a blind eye to what is obviously a
serious problem,” says Ted Withrow, a member of Kentuckians for the
Commonwealth and retired Big Sandy River Basin coordinator for the
Kentucky Division of Water. “False reporting is widespread within the coal
industry, but state regulators have little incentive to identify problems like
these when there are false reports that make everything look great.”
Kentucky Riverkeeper Pat Banks adds that, as coal production
declines in the state, “we need to be more diligent than ever to make
sure companies can’t cut corners at the expense of local residents and
the environment. We need healthy people and a healthy environment for
eastern Kentucky to be able to flourish.
“Coal jobs may be leaving the state, but they’re leaving behind the
industry’s legacy of environmental damage for us to clean up.”