Environmental groups have filed an appeal and a lawsuit, both targeting coal mines in Kentucky. The Sierra Club and Kentuckians for the Commonwealth are appealing the Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection’s decision to issue a Clean Water Act permit for the Beech Fork Processing Plant in Lovely in Johnson County.
Rick Clewett of the Sierra Club’s Cumberland Chapter says the state issues lots of these permits, but the permitting process is inadequate.
“They don’t put limits on things like heavy metals, selenium, various things which really need to have limits on them if you’re going to do anything like responsible mining,” he said.
The groups also filed a separate lawsuit against another Johnson County mine. The suit alleges that Laurel Mountain Resources is violating surface mining laws and the Clean Water Act by discharging more selenium than is allowed.
Clewett says the groups conducted tests on nearby streams and lakes and found levels of selenium that violate water quality standards.
“But then our people searched the records and the company had actually self-reported much higher levels of selenium,” he said. So we’ve got the company’s own word for it and then our evidence too.”
Selenium is a naturally-occurring element, but it’s dangerous in high amounts and has been found to cause deformities in aquatic life.