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.”
Thanks to all our sponsors and players for a great event…
Beverage Cart Sponsor:
Kort Physical Therapy
Citizens Guaranty Bank
Cumberland Valley National Bank
Davis Law, PSC
Dr. Steve Mattingly, DMD
Jennings Home Center
Kaylor’s Marine Services
Kentucky Environmental Foundation
Madison County Ford
Pat Banks Watercolors
Soft Show Inc.
Spurlin Mobile Home Park
The Paddy Wagon Irish Pub
Stantec Environmental Services
Whitaker-Vencill Insurance Agency
William Morgan, DMD
Gifts/Awards Provided By:
The University Club at Arlington
Boone’s Trace National Golf Course
Gibson Bay Golf Course
Southwind Golf Course
Hinkle Block & Masonry
Kaylor’s Marine Services
Studio J Salon Spa & Boutique
In 2001, the Kentucky Foundation for Women awarded an “Arts Meets Activism” grant to four women artists/activists working with the Kentucky RIVERKEEPER, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization in residence at Eastern Kentucky University’s Center for Appalachian Studies. The planning grant was designed to promote arts activism within eastern Kentucky schools and communities and devise a funding strategy to give the project legs. The long-term goal was to establish an annual River Festival as an art/environmental event with feminist leadership. Co-directors of this project included Judy Sizemore (Circuit Rider for the Kentucky Arts Council), Pat Banks (artist-educator), Joanne Guifoil (Professor of Art Education, Eastern Kentucky University), and Gabrielle Beazely (independent videographer/photographer).
The purpose of this ongoing program has been to promote watershed awareness and cultural heritage education through arts experiences. Led by Kentucky Riverkeeper Pat Banks, various teams of environmentally active artists/educators have provided workshops/retreats for artists, educators and activists Kentucky River watershed communities. An annual exhibit and reception is held at Richmond’s Gallery on Main.
The goals of the projects in this program are to:
- Recognize rural women as leaders and guardians of their community watersheds.
- Inspire more rural women to use their creativity as environmental activists.
- Develop a network of rural women artists and leaders who will promote watershed awareness.
- Reconnect rural women with cultural heritage in the rivers and creeks as they work toward watershed restoration and preservation.
- Nally- Hamilton Case – October, 2011 (PDF file)
- Mountaintop Removal Photos
- Call to Action: HR2584, The Interior & Environment Approps Bill for FY12
- Army Corp of Engineer Case & Mercury Hearings with the Kentucky State Environmental Quality Commission
- RIVERKEEPER® Law Suit with the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers
by: Louan Christensen
Goose bump water rushes
over near frozen feet
on a hot summer afternoon.
hollowed out cucumber boats
And the race begins!
Bare feet sink in garden mud
of thirsty dirt and irrigation water.
Back- bent farmers hoe peas and beets.
on ragged jeans
Then eat them.
We slurp clear water from cupped hands
letting it trickle down our chins;
We pick green apples and pucker
at their sour sweetness.
Beyond the pasture fence
A tire swing hangs
From a sycamore tree.
We soar above the canal
Our voices squeal, ”Higher! Higher!”
Still, we drag
delighted toes and sunburned feet
through the gentle coolness.
>How I wish I could gift you
the long ago afternoon
when your daddy and the city kids
opened up the hydrant
in the humid streets of Philadelphia, <
bent their backsides
into the fierce, escaping Niagara,
creating water umbrellas,
rainbows, splashing puddles,
Oh to fill a bucket with
long agos and yesterdays
till they spill over the rim
and flood the summer grass.
To dance child, in the mist
of the garden hose
and paint wet footprints
on concrete canvas.
This gallery contains 17 photos.
FOR IMMEDIATE PRESS RELEASE
The 2008 Integrated Report on the condition of Kentucky’s streams and waterways was recently released by the Kentucky Division of Water (KDOW). While monitoring results for all of the Commonwealth’s water bodies were reported during this two-year cycle, the Kentucky River Basin was one of the primary focuses of this 2008 reporting cycle.
A review of the monitoring results from the 2008 report for waters within the Kentucky River watershed show area waters to be typically impaired by fecal coli form, e-coli, eutrophication and sedimentation/siltation and other biological indicators. But, perhaps of most concern, is that the 2008 Integrated Report lists 67 river miles of the Kentucky River, starting in Estill County (56 miles) to Owen County (another 11 miles) as impaired by methyl mercury (p.76).
Considering that methyl mercury (like lead) is a potent neurotoxin, the Kentucky Environmental Quality Commission (EQC) recently asked for clarification and more information from KDOW on this matter. During May of this year, mercury impairment levels were discussed via a teleconference session and at the May 28 EQC open forum with KDOW regulators.
Considering the number of river miles involved and the type of contaminant, the Kentucky State Environmental Quality Commission has placed this issue on its agenda for its November meetings. KDOW regulators will be invited, as well as members from the 2004/2005 Special Taskforce on Mercury. EQC meetings are open to the public and members of the Kentucky RIVERKEEPER and other stakeholders are encouraged to attend to discuss these results on mercury from the 2008 Integrated Report.
— By Stephanie McSpirit, Ph.D.
Board Member, Kentucky State Environmental Quality Commission
The following documents are available in PDF format. You will need the free Adobe Acrobat Reader in order to view and print the files.
Judge Clark met with the students during a field trip to the Kentucky River Museum, the beach, Riverkeeper boat and Fort Boonesborough. The students were researching images and materials for their cafeteria wall mural. The mural has been six years in the making.
Mayfield art teacher Sharla Davidson wrote grants and partnered with community groups to secure the funding to support this project. The Kentucky Arts Council Roster Artist and the Kentucky Riverkeeper Pat Banks has worked with this project from the beginning. The river story was incorporated through out the process. Students learned about plants, animals, fish and some history surrounding this region and watershed.