Kathy Little and Debbie Walker stand in Walker’s front yard, 50 feet from the ash landfill at Louisville Gas & Electric‘s Cane Run plant. They watch as heavy machinery backs up, pushing ash from one pile to another.Both women have lived in the neighborhood for decades—Little for 33 years, Walker for 23. Walker says she used to be able to see Indiana from her window. Now, she just sees the mountains of coal ash.
President Barack Obama has declared seven Eastern Kentucky counties a disaster area as a result of severe storms, tornadoes and flooding from June 19-23. The state government and local governments — as well as some non-profit organizations — in Bell, Breathitt, Knott, Knox, Lee, Magoffin and Perry counties will be eligible for federal aid to help pay for emergency work and repairing facilities damaged by the severe weather.
“Okay, here’s our ash pond!” Steve Turner exclaims. He’s the general manager at Louisville Gas & Electric’s Cane Run Power Station, and he is giving Kathy Little and her husband Tony a tour of the plant. “You can see bottom ash, but it’s down at the water level, so it stays wetted.” Cane Run is one of the two coal-fired power plants within the Louisville city limits, and both store byproducts, like coal ash, on site. LG&E has invited three nearby families to the plant to discuss the results of recent dust sampling. The Little family, as well as the Walkers and the Cunninghams, were invited because samples taken off their homes showed high concentrations of coal ash. LG&E is doing damage control.
New recycling containers now enhance the landscape of Lexington parks. 59 containers with one section for waste and another section for recyclables are being situated in parks. Bill Clarke, who's with Parks and Recreation says the container handles various recyclables. “Primarily aluminum cans and plastic bottles, cardboard, paper. We don’t like to get items that have been soiled or contaminated with food,” said Clarke.
After two years, the federal government has released new guidelines for surface coal mines. In 2009, the Environmental Protection Agency announced it would increase scrutiny on a number of mountaintop removal permits in Appalachia and would release guidelines for future permits.Those guidelines were released last week. Mine operators will now find it much harder to get permits for valley fills—where valleys and streams are filled with debris from mining.
You can’t see the smokestacks of the Cane Run Power Station from Stephanie Hogan’s home, even though she lives a block away. And while the power plant isn’t visible, it’s still a looming presence in Hogan’s life. “Oh, he breathes so bad, he sounds like Darth Vader.” Hogan shakes her head, and Cody wheezes. “You ain’t even been running.”
It's so hot, air conditioners are melting. Or, more accurately, they are being overtaxed by the heat and humidity that has engulfed much of the nation and caused the National Weather Service in Louisville to issue an excessive heat warning for Kentucky. The warning is in effect until Saturday.
A newly released report says Kentucky has some of the dirtiest air in the nation. You can’t see the particles emitted from coal burning power plants, but they’re thick in Kentucky’s air. That’s according to a report by the Natural Resources Defense Council. The NRDC says Kentucky has the fourth dirtiest air in the nation. The group analyzed data gathered by the Environmental Protection Agency and ranked states accordingly. John Walke works on clean air policy for the environmental group.
The algae which once blanketed the prehistoric earth could help power Kentucky’s cars. Within ten years, plant and soil sciences professor Joe Chappell says algae under study at the University of Kentucky could provide a high value oil.
This morning, Bloomberg Philanthropies announced a $50 million grant to the Sierra Club, to be doled out over four years. The Sierra Club says they’ll use the money for their “Beyond Coal”campaign, which works to transition the nation away from coal.The Sierra Club said the gift from Bloomberg will effectively retire one-third of America’s aging coal-fired power plants by 2020, and replace them with clean energy. The announcement was made in front of a power plant in Alexandria, Virginia, by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune.
It’s official - it’s excessively hot outside. The National Weather Service in Louisville has placed most of central Kentucky and southern Indiana under an excessive heat warning. Today’s high temperature is expected to be 97 degrees, but combined with humidity, it could feel as hot as 115. Friday and Saturday also have heat indexes ranging from 105 to 115. Temperatures in the low to mid-90s will continue into next week. To avoid peak temperatures, the weather service recommends that strenuous outdoor activities be scheduled for the early morning or evening hours.
An excessive heat warning has been issued by the National Weather Service for all of Kentucky through 9 p.m. EDT Saturday. The mercury will hover between the low- to mid-90s through the period. Combined with high humidity, heat index values will range from 110 to 115 degrees. The high heat indices will create dangerous conditions for those who work or play outdoors, those without air conditioning, those with chronic health conditions and for the elderly and outdoor pets.
A north-south artery in Powell County that was closed by a mudslide reopened Wednesday evening, a spokesman for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet's District 10 in Jackson said. The slide brought mud and trees onto Ky. 11 after 3 to 4 inches of rain fell in about 90 minutes Tuesday night, said H.B. Elkins, spokesman for the Jackson office. While the road was closed, motorists going to Natural Bridge State Resort Park near Slade on Wednesday were asked to take a detour.
A crash course in composting is available this summer in Lexington. The classes are increasingly popular. The idea is to, for instance, mix green vegetation, brown leaves, and cracked egg shells with potato skins. The successful compost pile often features leaves, twigs, grass clippings and food scraps. But, Recycling Program Specialist Esther Moberly says only certain food scraps should find their way into the compost heap.
In 2010, grassroots activists in Kentucky launched a movement to halt the construction of a new coal-burning power plant in Clark County - and won. Now, as part of the agreement, a collaborative made up of energy providers and environmental groups is looking for cleaner alternatives to help power the 500,000 homes, farms, and business that rely on the East Kentucky Power Cooperative. David Mitchell, Collaborative chair, says meeting the challenge will take effort from power companies and power users.
Louisville Gas & Electric has released a second study on coal ash. It follows another thatshowed the company is possibly in violation of pollution laws. LG&E says this secondreport is more accurate, but it might not matter in the long run. People who live near the Cane Run Power Station have complained that fly ash is leaving the landfill and contaminating their homes. The first report, released earlier this week by LG&E, confirmed there were high concentrations of fly ash on their houses.
For the past few years, American Electric Power has been working on a carbon capture and sequestration project at their Mountaineer Power Plant in New Haven, West Virginia. The plant used a chilled ammonia process to remove the carbon dioxide from the gas emitted from the plant, then the carbon was injected underground for storage in porous rock. Here’s a documentary I produced while at West Virginia Public Broadcasting, which describes the technology at Mountaineer.
Science has backed up claims by people living near the Cane Run Power Station in Louisville who say the plant’s coal ash is contaminating their homes. This could lead Metro Government to take action against Louisville Gas & Electric. Next to LG&E’s Cane Run Power Station there’s a coal ash landfill. It holds the fly ash that’s leftover after coal is burned. The residents of Cane Run Road say the ash routinely blows off the landfill and travels onto their property, coating siding and windows. Now, this new report commissioned by the power company is the latest study to lend credence to those concerns.
A new report has confirmed that coal ash is contaminating the homes of residents who live near a Louisville power plant. Residents have complained about dust from the Cane Run Power Station traveling onto their properties.A study commissioned by Louisville Gas & Electric took six samples off of nearby homes, and all came back showing significant amounts of coal ash.
Last month, researchers at Washington State University and West Virginia University released a study that found a correlation between mountaintop removal mining birth defects. A law firm with ties to the National Mining Association has refuted the study’s findings, but in the process, insulted many Appalachians. Inbreeding in Appalachia is one many stereotypes, perpetuated by movies and even Vice President Dick Cheney in 2008 at a National Press Club Event:
Controversy continues over the possibility of wind turbines being erected in western Mason County. Concerned citizens attended the regular monthly meeting of the Mason County Joint Planning Commission last week. NextEra Energy Resources, a Florida-based company, began conducting studies last year to determine if wind turbines could be feasible in Mason and Bracken counties.
National correspondent for The Atlantic James Fallows is in Louisville this week. Fallows is a keynote speaker at the Kentucky Chamber’s annual meeting. Fallows will deliver a speech based on his recent article “Dirty Coal, Clean Future.” The story, which was published in December, examines the future of coal in the United States.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency is finalizing a new air pollution rule that’s meant to reduce power plant emissions. The rule will affect Kentucky, but not immediately. The EPA’s new rule is meant to control sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions, which are often blown across state lines. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson says regulating such interstate pollution is essential, because a state shouldn’t be penalized for pollution it can’t control.
Some parts of Louisville sounded like a war zone last weekend as fireworks laws were relaxed and residents celebrated the Fourth of July holiday. But all of those fireworks contributed to some of the area’s air quality problems. There are two main kinds of air pollution: fine particle and ozone. Louisville has been having a number of problems with ozone lately, but this weekend there was also a higher amount of particle pollution in the air from fireworks. Louisville Metro Air Pollution Control District spokesman Matt Stull says the high level isn’t necessarily caused by the city’s official fireworks, but it seems the sheer number of people lighting explosives over the weekend helped push the reading over the threshold.
The Louisville area has had six Air Quality Alerts because of high ozone levels so far this year.But the Environmental Protection Agency is scheduled to unveil a new rule this week that could eventually reduce those ozone levels. The Clean Air Transport Rule will affect states differently. Some will have to regulate both fine particle pollution and ozone, some will have to regulate one or the other, and some won’t be affected at all. Kentucky, as well as the entire Ohio River Valley, is among the 21 states that will have to reduce both types of pollution.
An invasive insect could be set to enter Kentucky. The Asian Longhorn Beetle was spotted in trees southeast of Cincinnati within a few miles of the Ohio River. If it makes it to Kentucky it may be difficult to eradicate. The beetle has been in the United States since the 1990s, when it stowed away in shipping containers from Asia. Now, it’s living in many forests, where it bores into trees and eventually severs all the vascular tissue and kills the plant.
The feral pig problem is spreading in Kentucky. The animals aren’t native to the commonwealth, but were illegally brought into the state and let loose for hunting. They’ve been copiously reproducing ever since. In 2009, wild pigs were only in about 23 of Kentucky’s 120 counties. Now, they’re in 44, and spreading. Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Mark Marraccini says the animals have few redeeming characteristics.
Federal regulators held a briefing today in West Virginia to discuss their investigation into the Upper Big Branch Mine explosion. The Mine Safety and Health Administration says the explosion on April 5, 2010 that killed 29 miners in southern West Virginia was preventable. In a presentation, MSHA administrator Kevin Stricklin outlined Massey’s failures at the mine, including a focus on coal production at the expense of proper safety measures.
A Harlan County miner became the nation’s ninth coal miner to die on the job this year, and the second in Kentucky. The name of the miner hasn’t been released, but the accident happened at the Manalapan P1 mine at Pathfork this morning. Investigators from the Kentucky Office of Mine Safety and Licensing are on the scene, and preliminary reports suggest the miner was killed in a roof fall.