Coal company pollutes, Beshear gives them an award

On Tuesday, the Beshear administration gave Laurel Mountain Resources an award for "outstanding reclamation work," which in this case means what once was part of the most diverse hardwood forest in North America has been planted in hay.

As CNHI reporter Ronnie Ellis pointed out in a news story, the state fined Laurel Mountain Resources $11,000 last summer for polluting an eastern Kentucky  stream, and that continues to be investigated for the pollution that is destroying the land and water on the property of KFTC member Rick Handshoe (here and here).

Laurel Mountain Resources is the same company that KFTC and the Sierra Club sued in December 2011 for unpermitted pollution at its Bear Hollow Mine in Johnson County. Specifically, the groups cited monitoring results showing that the Bear Hollow Mine was discharging selenium above water quality standards, in violation of both the Clean Water Act and surface mining laws.

James River Coal is the owner of Laurel Mountain Resources, as well as other mining operations that have been problematic for workers and residents.

An underground miner was killed in a James River Coal operation, McCoy Elkhorn Coal, in June 2012. According to reporter Naomi Spencer at, "Data from the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) record at least 20 injuries and two fatalities at the mine in the past half-decade. Inspectors have issued more than 1,000 citations for safety violations over the period."

Another miner was killed at a James River Coal subsidiary in Leslie County in January 2010. The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) cited the mine after the collapse and had cited it previously for failing to maintain and follow a roof control plan to prevent collapses. See here.

A study by the Investigative Reporting Workshop found that between 2000 and 2009, James River Coal operations had 9,942 "significant" violations at its operations nationwide, resulting the assessment of more than $12 million in fines.

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