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.
The federal Mine Safety and Health Administration has cited six Kentucky mines for safety violations. Those mines were among the 19 nationwide that the agency inspected in May as part of their special impact inspections, which target mines with a history of compliance problems.
Several environmental groups are threatening to suetwo 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 Voices, Kentuckians 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.
Western Kentucky University already was spending money on projects to reduce energy use. So when the university learned it could receive additional incentives through the Tennessee Valley Authority, it was an added bonus. On Monday, WKU received a check from TVA for more than $106,000, money that will be plowed back into the energy savings program on campus, according to WKU President Gary Ransdell.
“Big Coal makes us sick.” That was the message printed on bright orange signs held by activists at a rally on the banks of the Kentucky River in Clark County Saturday morning. The signs had a double meaning. Just days after the media reported results of a study linking pollutants from mountaintop removal mining to a higher incidence of birth defects, members of the Sierra Club and other groups called on Gov. Steve Beshear’s administration to do a better job of enforcing the federal Clean Water Act.
Corn has begun tasseling in Kentucky while soybean planting is nearing its conclusion, the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service field office in Louisville reported Monday. Nine percent of the corn had tasseled as of Sunday, approximately two weeks behind last year because of the rain-delayed planting this spring. The corn crop is rated in mostly good condition. Soybean planting was 85-percent complete, down from the five-year average of 92 percent at this time of year. The crop is rated in mostly good condition.
A measure that would gut the nation’s Clean Water Act has cleared a House committee. House Resolution 2018 would basically allow states to set their water quality standards on their own. Right now, the federal Environmental Protection Agency administers the Clean Water Act. States can adopt stricter requirements, but the EPA sets the minimum bar.
Given the high price of petroleum-based fertilizers, more farmers are considering sludge from sewage treatment plants. It’s free, but, many local governments worry about the safety of so-called biosolids. And, as Sandy Hausman reports from Virgina, it also makes some farm neighbors uneasy
The New York Times’ editorial yesterday took power giant American Electric Power to task for its opposition to the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed air standards. AEP has been contradicting itself lately, telling the public that the eventual closing of two dozen power plants will result in major job losses, even while the company tells investors otherwise:
Ralph Tharp has submitted a grant application seeking $500,000 to plan and design a network of electric car recharging stations on interstates in Kentucky. The application with several local endorsements was submitted last week to the U.S. Department of Energy, and federal officials could make a decision by September, says Tharp, executive director of the Kentucky Capital Development Corporation. He envisions a network of recharging stations at rest areas, restaurants and tourist attractions on Interstates 64, 75, 71 and 65. Such a plan would be the first project east of the Rocky Mountains. Oregon, Washington and California created a similar system stretching more than 1,300 miles on Interstate 5 from Seattle to southern California with recharging stations every 40 to 60 miles.
The beach at Lake Barkley State Resort Park, which usually opens on Memorial Day weekend, still hasn’t opened this year because the waters have tested for high levels of E. coli bacteria. “We’ve got our fingers crossed that next week we’ll open,” park manager John Jordan said in a phone interview Friday. The bacteria has forced closings of Lake Barkley’s beach in the past — most recently in 2009, Jordan said. He doesn’t know why the bacteria builds up, but he cited the goose population as a potential factor.
In May, Hubert and Louise Sparks were surprised to find a rare albino robin under a big tree in their front yard. Imagine their surprise when, on Thursday, they found another one in the same place a month later. Meanwhile, a full-grown robin was flitting about from fence post to fence post, making excited noises. The Sparkses found the first albino robin, which was completely white and had pink eyes, at their home at 1816 Ecton Road, on May 11.
The head of Louisville's Sewer District says the fish kill on the Ohio River last night may have resulted from an algae bloom, rather than a chemical spill as was previously reported. The sheen on the Ohio River was noticed south of Rubbertown by cameras at Dow Chemical’s plant, and about 20 Asian Carp were found dead. It was initially thought to be a chemical release from somewhere upriver, but water sampling by three separate entities was negative.
An unknown chemical leaked into the Ohio River last night, killing several fish. But water samples taken since then show no sign of any contamination. A sheen was noticed on the river’s surface by cameras at Dow Chemical’s plant, south of Rubbertown. The Lake Dreamland Fire Department first responded to the call and alerted the Coast Guard and Health Department.
LexTran unveiled seven energy-efficient new buses Wednesday. Two operate on hybrid electric technology, and the five others run on diesel-powered engines that adhere to the 2010 Clean Air Act, featuring an additional air scrubber that produces cleaner exhaust emissons. Jill Barnett, spokeswoman for Lexington's public transportation agency, said the new buses were part of LexTran's efforts to "go green," coupled with the agency's need for new buses. There are more than 70 buses in the fleet. A bus lasts about 12 years, Barnett said. The money for the buses came from a $2.94 million 2009 earmark from U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell.
The Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency faced the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works today to discuss the EPA’s proposed air rules. Lisa Jackson also talked about the new air standards’ impact on public health. In March, after a 20-year political and legal battle, the EPA proposed its first-ever national standards for regulating mercury and other air pollution from power plants. Jackson told the committee that when power plants have to comply with the new standards, it’ll have an incredible effect on Americans’ health.
Thanks to a grant from the state's Kentucky Pride Fund, both the Breathitt County and Wolfe County Fiscal Courts will share in nearly $143,000 to expand recycling, reduce the amount of solid waste going into their landfills and maintain environmental management programs in the two counties. The recycling grant going toward Breathitt and Wolfe counties was among 73 grants statewide – 59 recycling grants and 14 household hazardous waste grants – which totaled over $3.5 million.
Alpha Natural Resource’s CEO says his company’s acquisition of Massey Energy improves the company’s position in the international market. Kevin Crutchfield said Massey’s vast metallurgical coal reserves were one reason the merger made sense for Alpha. During an interview with West Virginia MetroNews, he said he also expects to be providing coal for electricity to developing nations.
Today a group of US House Republicans introduced a series of bills to stream line renewable energy production, but Kentucky lawmakers say that still won’t help secure America’s energy future. Kentucky’s energy industry is up in arms over what they say are excessive regulations for coal. And a group of Republicans say that also extends to renewable energies on federal lands…such as geothermal and wind production. Kentucky Republican Ed Whitfield says the Obama Administration needs to free up domestic energy production.
Community leaders in Lexington are rolling out a campaign they hope will cause a significant drop in cigarette litter. In a recent survey of one block in downtown Lexington, members of the Keep Lexington Beautiful Commission counted more than 600 cigarette butts on the ground. Commission chair woman Patricia Knight says many smokers don’t take the time properly dispose of their cigarettes.
The coal industry and politicians have done a good job labeling Kentucky as a coal state. But not all coal is equal. Not chemically, not geologically and not financially. As Kentucky Public Radio's Erica Peterson reports, some types of coal are much more valuable than others.