3:57pm

Tue June 28, 2011
Environmental Watchdog

Lawsuit Filed Against Two Coal Companies

Several environmental groups are threatening to sue two eastern Kentucky coal companies for thousands of water violations. They say the state won’t take action. This comes as the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet is lobbying to have even more control over the state’s waterways. The notice of intent to sue was sent from Appalachian VoicesKentuckians for the Commonwealth and several other organizations to International Coal Group–recently acquired byArch Coal–and Frasure Creek Mining. They say the coal companies self-reported thousands of violations at eastern Kentucky mines.

Donna Lisenby with Appalachian Voices says her group is taking action because the stateEnergy and Environment Cabinet hasn’t.

“And the cabinet continues to shield them, it fails to investigate and make these findings, it fails to prosecute, so we, the citizens’ groups, are left to enforce the Clean Water Act in Kentucky,” she said.

The group intervened in a similar case last year, when the state of Kentucky took action against the same companies for failing to accurately report the amount of pollution their operations were releasing into waterways. Franklin County Circuit Court Judge Phillip Shepherd ruled that environmental groups could intervene in the case, suggesting that the state wouldn’t “diligently prosecute” the coal companies. That case is scheduled for mediation next month.

These suits come at a time when congress is moving to give states more control over the Clean Water Act. Kentucky’s Energy and Environment cabinet head Len Peters even testified before a committee in favor of the measure in May.

“Governor Beshear and I recognize and respect that EPA has a responsibility and obligation to revise and update regulations and program requirements as necessary to protect human health and environment,” he said in his testimony. “However, EPA should not create new regulatory requirements that have not undergone the appropriate Congressional or rulemaking processes.”

The environmental groups point to the number of violations found for ICG and Frasure Creek Mining’s eastern Kentucky mines as proof the Commonwealth isn’t properly administering the program. Kentucky cited just over a tenth of those violations, and asked for about $600,000 in fines.

In this most recent notice of intent to sue, the companies have 60 days to respond to the charges laid out in the letter. If the violations aren’t corrected, the environmental groups can pursue citizen enforcement.