State’s new general permits for coal mining mean five more years of polluted streams

Posted by: KFTC staff on September 5, 2014

The Beshear administration this week issued two new general permits for coal facilities that fail to fully address the ongoing and substantial harm to humans and aquatic life from polluted mine wastewater.

That's despite strong citizen testimony at a public hearing in June that pointed out many of the flaws in the proposed permits and made suggestions for improving.

The chief complaint of residents of eastern Kentucky is that the permits will allow some streams to actually become more polluted from mining waste rather than improving and protecting their quality.

“While the final permits are a slight improvement over the expiring permit, it bears reiterating that a great many streams throughout Kentucky coal mining areas are currently impaired from discharges allowed by the expiring permits," said Tim Joice, the Water Policy Director for Kentucky Waterways Alliance. "These final permits fall well short of providing the necessary protection of our water resources, and our communities, from coal mining pollution.”

KFTC member Doug Doerrfeld echoed this point. “The utter failure of Kentucky’s general permit for coal is clearly illustrated by the fact that over 80 percent of the Big Sandy River, which runs through coal-producing counties, cannot fully support aquatic life. Resource extraction under general permits for surface coal mining has been the source of much of the pollution that is killing the Big Sandy River.”

Most coal mines, coal processing facilities and coal slurry impoundments in Kentucky are currently covered under a single general permit, which expired in at the end of July.

The Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet’s Division of Water developed the two new permits for coal mining, one for mines in eastern Kentucky  and one for those in western Kentucky, although the two permits are largely identical. The two new permits will go into effect on October 1, and will be valid for five years (through September 2019). The agency expects between 1,200 and 1,500 facilities across the state to seek coverage under the new permits, although individual permits are expected to be required at some of these facilities. General permits are considered a blanket approval mechanism. They require less scrutiny than individual permits and do not compel site-specific environmental assessments nor individual public comment processes.

Many who testified in June said that the general permit should be done away with and individual permits required for all pollution sources.


Find a pdf of the permit for eastern Kentucky HERE.

Find a pdf of the permit for western Kentucky HERE.

More information from the Division of Water about the permits HERE.

KFTC's blog post on the June public hearing on the draft General Permits

The permits contain several additions, such as some limits on selenium and “whole effluent toxicity, which is a measure of water’s toxicity to test species, as well as new electronic reporting requirements. However, they include no limits on many pollutants commonly associated with coal facilities, such as aluminum and sulfate, which can be extremely toxic to aquatic species, and conductivity, an indicator of many pollutants, including toxic heavy metals.

The general permits contain limits for selenium that are based on Kentucky's newly adopted water quality standards for that pollutant. Those new standards were adopted over the objections of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. They are weaker and more complicated than those they replaced, and are currently being challenged in court by a number of organizations concerned about water quality in the state, including KFTC. Selenium is an element commonly discharged from coal mines and coal ash ponds. It is extremely toxic to fish, building up over time and leading to deformities, reproductive failure and even death.

To require further protection for streams already damaged by mining and other pollution, the new permits rely on the state first listing the stream as damaged and developing a management plan for that stream. This Clean Water Act program, known Total Maximum Daily Load, serves to identify streams that are impaired for specific uses, such as drinking, fishing and aquatic life, and requires a plan to clean them up.

As Doerrfeld pointed out, and according to the agency's own reports, the majority of waterways in eastern Kentucky are already polluted but the state has no cleanup plans for many of them as required under the Clean Water Act.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has ultimate authority to approve or deny Kentucky’s new general permits.

“These new permits are an improvement, but still fall short, and will continue to allow thousands of coal mines to poison streams across the state," said Eric Chance, a Water Quality Specialist for Appalachian Voices.

Added KFTC member Mary Love, “I applaud the Division of Water including the limit on discharges within five miles of a municipal water intake, but wish that they had done away with the general permit process altogether. Each permit application should be considered individually since each location has its own particular characteristics.”

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Annual membership meeting focuses on grassroots leadership

Posted by: By KFTC Staff on August 25, 2014

One of KFTC’s goals of organizing is to have fun, and members proved they know how to do that at KFTC’s 2014 annual membership meeting, even as they took a serious look at Kentucky issues and the role of grassroots leadership.

About 200 KFTC members came together August 22-24 at General Butler State Resort Park in Carrollton around the theme “From the Grassroots to the Mountaintop: Empowering Grassroots Leaders.” Woven with many conversations both structured and informal about Kentucky issues were discussions about grassroots leadership – what it looks like, who’s a leader, how leaders become leaders and how grassroots leadership development can change the world.

In between serious conversations, members found time to hug old friends and meet new ones, honor each other for work well done at Saturday’s awards banquet, share their talents at a cultural sharing showcase, and show off their moves at a dance party. The crowd for the annual meeting was one of the youngest and most diverse in KFTC’s history, with many first-time attendees.

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Poet Bianca Spriggs opens KFTC annual meeting

Posted by: By KFTC Staff on August 23, 2014

Affrilachian poet Bianca Spriggs opened KFTC’s annual meeting by sharing her work and talking with participants about the meaning of collaboration.

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Wilderness Trace hosts a great Barn Bash, gears up for fall

Posted by: KFTC staff on August 21, 2014

With another summer comes another Wilderness Trace Barn Bash, and this year's was a hoot! On Saturday, July 12, the Wilderness Trace KFTC chapter hosted its second annual Barn Bash at Woodwind Farm in Junction City, where the music, weather, food, and company all made for a great combination to celebrate KFTC's work over the past year and to invite others to join in the fun of working for social change. 

Barn Bash 2014

People who came hungry were delighted to find a great assortment of dishes. Local food was front-and-center as all the meat at this year's event came from nearby Springfield producers, Rising Sons Beef and River Run Farm & Pottery. Providing quality local food at a low price to Barn Bash guests was made possible in large part to event sponsor, Stuart Powell. Members felt that showcasing local food fit in well with the chapter's values and hope to continue grilling local meat at future events.

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Transition Stories: Eastern Kentucky Social Club binds Lynch community

Posted by: KFTC Staff on August 14, 2014

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Jefferson County members talk tax reform with mayor

Posted by: Linda Stettenbenz on August 7, 2014

A small group of Jefferson County chapter members met with Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer last month to find common ground about the need for revenue.

The meeting came about as a result of an encounter in March between KFTC members and the mayor in Frankfort. Members were in Frankfort for our Economic Justice Lobby Day to lift up the need for fair and adequate statewide tax reform; Mayor Fischer was seeking support for his local option sales tax initiative. KFTC decided to oppose the local option sales tax mostly because it takes more from the budgets of low-income people than from higher-income people.  There has also been concern that revenue from it would not be sustainable or flexible enough to meet community needs. 

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Louisville Metro Council unanimously passes resolution supporting Voting Rights Restoration in Kentucky

Posted by: Bonifacio Aleman on August 7, 2014

We Did It!!!

Louisville Metro Council once again made history last month by passing the Resolution supporting the Restoration of Voting Rights to Former Felons in Kentucky with a unanimous vote of 19-0!

Going into the July 24 Metro Council hearing, the Resolution had 11 bi-partisan co-sponsors. Once the Resolution was brought to the floor for discussion, five more Metro Council members (bi-partisan, again!) signed on as co-sponsors.  With no opposition on Metro Council, or from the chambers, the Resolution passed, with several Metro Council members going on record about why voting rights matter, and why this resolution is so important.

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Great food served up by Rowan members at music fest

Posted by: Annie Adams on August 2, 2014

The Rowan County Chapter held its annual fundraiser at the Old Time Music Festival, which took place at Jaycee Farm in Morehead on July 25 and 26. This was the fifth year the chapter worked the festival, and the fourth it served as the sole food vendor.

Rowan 2014 fundraiserThe chapter set up two food stations, a KFTC informational table with KFTC merchandise, and a spacious eating pavilion.

Ted Withrow oversaw the primary food station, which offered vegetarian and non-vegetarian soup beans and corn bread, hamburgers, hot dogs, pulled pork sandwiches (with slaw), fried taters and fresh corn.

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Kentucky lawmaker praises EPA Clean Power Plan

Posted by: Lisa Abbott on July 31, 2014

Over the next few weeks we will share some of the powerful public statements made by Kentuckians to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency about the agency's proposed Clean Power Plan to limit carbon pollution from existing power plants. Below is testimony given at a hearing yesterday in Atlanta, Georgia by Joni Jenkins, who represents Kentucky's 44th House District in the state legislature.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak today.  My name is Joni Jenkins and I represent Kentucky House District 44 in the Kentucky General Assembly.  The 44th district is South of the Louisville, right on the banks of the Ohio River.

It is home to hard working, mostly blue collar, workers who strive everyday to raise their children for a brighter future. The 44th District is also home to 2 coal fired power plants with 2 coal ash landfills and coal ash ponds.  

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Kentuckians to EPA: Act on climate, protect health, support a Just Transition

Posted by: Lisa Abbott on July 30, 2014

Kentuckians in Atlanta for EPA climate hearing

Kentucky was well represented by grassroots voices at the first hearings held this week by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on the agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon pollution from existing power plants.

Forty citizens from Owensboro, Bowling Green, Louisville, Lexington, Morehead, Berea, Burnside, Inez, Hazard and Whitesburg made the long drive from Kentucky to Atlanta, Georgia on July 28-29 to urge the EPA to strengthen the draft power plant rules. In addition, a KFTC member from Harlan County spoke at the EPA hearing in Denver, Colorado, along with allies from other Central Appalachian states.

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KFTC will be pilot site with Climate Justice Alliance

Posted by: KFTC Staff on July 23, 2014

KFTC has signed on to become a pilot site for the Climate Justice Alliance, a coalition of 40 organizations and networks working together to create a new analysis and a new “center of gravity” in the policy conversation about climate – informed by impacted communities.

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