Kentucky Mining and Clean Water Act Violations

Written by charlie   
Sunday, 14 December 2014 17:12
Reminiscent of 1970's environmental violations in its scope and egregious behavior, the  Kentucky based Frasure Creek Mining company was discovered to have submitted falsified water quality data thousands of times in 2008 and 2009, by repeatedly resubmitting old, passing reports.  The mining company was  subsequently sued by the Pace Law School Environmental Clinic representing several Kentucky based environmental organizations.   Frasure also did an encore performance from 2011 through March 2013, under the less than watchful eyes of Kentucky’s Energy and Environment Cabinet.  The Cabinet has long been known to be beholden to mining companies for generations, but the audacity of both the Frasure Creek Mining company for submitting falsified data and the Cabinet for jumping to Frasure's defense is breathtaking.

It speaks volumes about the Cabinet if it takes some city slickers- New York City law students in particular, to carry their water, so to speak, and demand the state enforce their own clean water regulations. Twice.

Not only did the Cabinet fail to uncover violations but they also shielded the Frasure Mine from prosecution, by filing its own suit on December 3,2010, and downplaying over 20,000 violations as "transcription errors". On the very same day the Cabinet filed the suit, they filed a consent judgement absolving Frasure creek for all violations, finding no wrongdoing and turning a blind eye to the falsified data in return for a $310,000 slap on the wrist. A sweetheart deal if there ever was one, fines up to $38 million could have been levied due to the number of violations under the Clean Water Act. The Cabinet attempts  to deflect criticism of their soft-pedalling of penalties and fealty to the coal companies by blaming all errors and omissions on the catch-all  "lack of manpower" excuse.
The KY Cabinet has additional enforcement problems in regards to mining; a federal grand jury just indicted  state Rep. Keith Hall on bribery charges, alleging he paid a state inspector, Kelly Shortridge, more than $46,000 to ignore environmental violations at his Pike County coal mines.
However, all is not lost, on November 24, 2014 , Franklin Circuit Court, Judge Phillip J. Shepherd tossed out the $310,000 agreement and will allow the Pace Law Clinic to participate in the hearing.  What this will mean with regards to penalties and enforcement is unclear, since the Frasure Creek Mine filed for bankruptcy in February 2013, and all of its equipment was sold.
The difficulties encountered in enforcing safety and environmental regulations of similar mines in West Virginia was published in the powerful and prescient book "Coal River" by Michael Shnayerson in 2008. Similar to the mines in Kentucky, gross violations have been found time and time again, without any consequences. It predicted the tragedy at Upper Big Branch Mine, if only by detailing the pattern of misconduct and evasiveness of the company while attempting to circumvent both mine safety and environmental regulations. Blankenship, the former CEO  was finally indited by a federal grand jury on November 13, 2014, for conspiracy to violate mandatory federal mine safety and health standards.

Last Updated on Sunday, 14 December 2014 17:17

Stuck in the mud

Written by charlie   
Tuesday, 02 December 2014 21:26

A man digging for worms to use as bait had to be hauled out of the mud across from the Ash Creek Open Space during low tide on Monday.  It sounds like something that should be possible, but he was unable to pull his leg free from the deep mud. I was once stuck in the mud like this as a kid, and I had to rely on two friends to pull me out - it was impossible to escape - there is no leverage and not much to pull yourself out with.  Good thing he had a cellphone! Video from News 12 is here




Wetlands: an Overview of Issues

Written by charlie   
Wednesday, 19 November 2014 16:38
"Wetlands: an Overview of Issues" is a 30 page, nonpartisan summary of the science, law and policy encompassing all of the issues relating to wetlands and their preservation, most recently published in December 2013. (Update: The 2014 Version was released on Nov 17, 2014 - and is available for $19.95 here through Penny Hill Press)
The paper was sponsored by the Congressional Research Service - the designated think tank for Congress, ( which provides research and legal analysis allowing Congress to make informed decisions.

Longer than an article, and shorter than a book, its a great primer on the history and current status of laws, policies and societal pressures that affect wetlands and efforts to protect them. Well worth a read and bookmarking.
Previous versions, dating from 2010 are available here, and I have only been able to locate the 2013 version here.
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