Featured Past Actions
Several members of the U.S. Senate – including Kentucky senators McConnell and Paul – are pushing amendments that would keep the Environmental Protection Agency from doing its job, while also doing serious damage to the Clean Water Act.
They are pushing three amendments to the Water Resources Development Act of 2013 (S. 601), legislation directed at restoring ecosystems and reducing erosion. Those amendments are:
The effects of selenium
Studies have found toxic effects of selenium on fish at levels as low as 2 - 5 μg/L (micrograms per liter) in water, and 3 ppm (parts per million) in fish tissues. The U.S. EPA has already established a chronic standard for selenium in freshwater of 5 μg/L. Despite extensive scientific evidence that selenium is toxic to aquatic life at very low levels, the state of Kentucky is proposing to weaken standards for selenium pollution to 258 ppm in water for acute exposure and 8.6 ppm in fish tissue for chronic exposure.
“If there's one thing we can count on from the Beshear administration, it's a willingness to sacrifice Kentucky's water to the coal industry.”
– Lexington Herald-Leader editorial
The Beshear administration is proposing a new water quality standard for selenium that is frightening. It disrespects the quality of life for people in communities where coal is mined.
Selenium is found in coal and other rock layers, and as coal is mined the selenium (and lots of other pollutants) leach out of valley fills and into our streams. Selenium is one of those pollutants that bio-accumulates, meaning that even low concentrations in streams can lead to toxic concentrations in animal tissues, causing severe reproductive failure, deformities and death in fish, birds and other wildlife. These effects are well-documented.
Since Kentucky officials do not include selenium limits in the water pollution discharge permits given to coal companies, selenium pollution has become a serious problem below some valley fills and other areas affected by large-scale coal mining that is not being addressed.
KFTC and our allies are pushing for tighter controls on selenium through organizing and litigation. In West Virginia, a federal judge ordered a coal company to post $45 million in secured credit to cover the anticipated cost of treating selenium at two of its surface coal mines. It appears this proposed selenium standard is an attempt by the Beshear administration to shield coal companies from a similar responsibility and liability in Kentucky.
They are attempting to do this by creating a weaker and unenforceable standard for selenium. The regulation is similar to one proposed by the Bush administration in 2004 and ultimately rejected. We need to stop this.
In early February, the Energy and Environment Cabinet gave less than a week's notice that they wanted to make this significant change. The proposed regulation was reviewed by the Administrative Regulation Review Subcommittee on February 11, which withheld its approval because of the lack of proper public notice.
But the administration is still pushing and plans to bring it back before a legislative review committee on April 9.
Members of the 2013 Administrative Regulation Review Subcommittee
- Rep. Johnny Bell (Barren and Warren counties)
- Sen. Joe Bowen (Daviess and McLean counties)
- Sen. Perry Clark (Louisville)
- Sen. Sara Beth Gregory (Clinton, Whitley, Wayne, Cumberland, McCreary, Monroe counties)
- Sen. Ernie Harris (Carroll, Henry, Jefferson, Oldham, Trimble counties)
- Rep. Robert Damron (Jessamine and some of Fayette County)
- Rep. Jimmie Lee (Hardin County)
- Rep. Tommy Turner (part of Laurel and Pulaski counties)
Please contact members of the Administrative Regulation Review Subcommittee and ask them to reject the cabinet's effort to weaken selenium water quality standard.
MESSAGE: "Please vote to not accept the Energy and Environment Cabinet's amendment to their proposed selenium regulation. The cabinet's amendment is unenforceable and deficient."
You can call the Legislative Message Line at 800-372-7181 and ask to leave a message for "all members of the Administrative Regulation Review Subcommittee." But if one of the committee members listed to the right is your own representative or senator, please leave an individual message for them so they will know you are their constituent.
The message line is open 7 a.m. until 11 p.m. Monday thru Thursday, and until 6 p.m. on Friday. If you would like to talk with your legislator directly, call 502-564-8100. If you would prefer to email, the names to the right are linked to their online contact form or email address.
For more information about this issue, download these comments from KFTC and allies about this proposal.
You may also find some helpful talking points in our sign-on letter to the cabinet and the governor here.
Thanks for taking action to help
protect our water and health!