Environmental Watchdog

7:34pm

Mon June 18, 2012
Environmental Watchdog

Study Finds Surface Miners at Risk for Black Lung

A new study shows that black lung disease isn’t limited to coal miners who work underground. Studies for coal workers’ pneumoconiosis—or black lung disease—haven’t been done on surface miners in a decade, and the miners were commonly thought to be less at risk for the disease than underground workers. Surface mines are open to the air, after all, and underground coal mines have frequent dust issues caused by mining in constricted spaces without much ventilation.

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10:42am

Wed June 13, 2012
Environmental Watchdog

Warm Winter Could Cause Increase in Mosquitoes

A female Asian Tiger mosquito, which is responsible for 90-95 % of mosquito bites in Lexington, was shown to participants.
Charles Bertram/Lexington Herald-Leader

Mosquitoes are out for blood in Central Kentucky earlier and in mightier form this summer. While some experts are predicting this summer to be one of the worst for mosquitoes in decades, Grayson Brown, professor of entomology at the University of Kentucky, said there's no way of knowing until summer is in full swing. The life span of a mosquito is relatively short, a few months at most, but mosquitoes have been building up their numbers since March and will be noticeable in the upcoming months.

11:12am

Sun June 10, 2012
Environmental Watchdog

Temperatures Wreak Havoc on Wheat Crop

The wheat harvest began as much as two weeks early this year in southcentral Kentucky because of early warm temperatures. But those warm temperatures, and then a brief cold snap, have wreaked havoc on the crop’s yield, which some farmers say has been cut nearly in half.

9:32am

Fri June 8, 2012
Environmental Watchdog

Three Kentucky Power Plants Among Nation's Biggest Polluters

Three Kentucky coal-fired power plants are named among the biggest polluters in the nation in a new report. The Environmental Integrity Project analyzed the fifty-one U.S. power plants that emit the highest levels of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, which have been linked to premature deaths from heart and lung disease. The report concludes that at several power plants—including the Green River, Shawnee and Mill Creek plants in Kentucky—the cost of lost human life outweighs the value of electricity the plant produces.

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2:44pm

Thu June 7, 2012
Environmental Watchdog

Proposed Limits on EPA Delay Bridge Repair Funds

Some Kentucky residents upset with the state’s congressional delegation traveled to the nation’s capital this week to protest surface coal mining.

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9:27am

Thu June 7, 2012
Environmental Watchdog

EPA Alleges Miners Bury Streams Without Permits

Mining companies buried sections of streams in Eastern Kentucky without getting proper permits, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.The companies should restore the sites or pay for mitigation projects elsewhere, or both, the agency said in a lawsuit filed Wednesday in federal court in Pikeville Wednesday.The EPA suit also seeks damages that could, in theory, run into the millions of dollars.

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8:11am

Thu June 7, 2012
Environmental Watchdog

Coal Less Important Than Ever in America

Photo by Erica Peterson / WFPL

A common misconception about coal in America is that it accounts for most of the nation’s electricity generation. Coal’s importance to the nation’s energy mix is indisputable. But that influence is on the decline, and is dropping fast. Even so, the new data has yet to be embraced by politicians intent on reinforcing Kentucky’s coal industry. Here’s Western Kentucky state Representative Brent Yonts at a recent public hearing in Frankfort.

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5:42am

Thu June 7, 2012
Environmental Watchdog

Restoring Natural Habitat at EKU

Running Buffalo Clover on E-K-U's Taylor Fork Site
Jessie Godbold

A piece of land on the far end of Eastern Kentucky University’s Richmond campus may become a new home for native plants and animals.  It’s becoming an outdoor classroom for EKU students….It’s a beaten down grassy path which winds behind EKU’s law enforcement complex and onto the Taylor Fork Ecological Project site.  Just inside the large gate, the landscape changes.   The land is clear with room for a picnic table.  A sign outlines an interpretive trail, and there’s a boot scrubber. David Brown is a Biology Sciences professor at Eastern.  “A lot of natural areas have something that so that when you enter it, you scrape your feet and if you’re carrying seeds or burrs or whatever, you leave them behind,” said Brown.

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10:21am

Wed June 6, 2012
Environmental Watchdog

EPA Weighs Comments From Frankfort Hearing

A coal supporter at the hearing. The back of her shirt reads "Power. Progress. Coal."
Erica Peterson/WFPL

The Environmental Protection Agency is weighing public comments and considering whether to cement its objections to 36 Kentucky coal mine permits. The agency heard from both the coal industry and environmental activists in a hearing in Frankfort on Tuesday.

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1:50pm

Tue June 5, 2012
Environmental Watchdog

McConnell Criticizes EPA Ahead of Public Forums

As the Environmental Protection Agency begins its public forums on coal mining permits in Kentucky, U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell is rallying for coal to be a bigger part of the nation's energy portfolio. McConnell has consistently criticized the EPA for its regulatory stances, saying they are harmful to Kentucky’s mining and agriculture industries. And he doubled down on that stance in remarks on the Senate floor Tuesday.

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9:43am

Tue June 5, 2012
Environmental Watchdog

Hearings on Mining Permits Begin Today

The Environmental Protection Agency is in Frankfort today for a hearing on mining permits. The agency is here to take public comments on 36 specific water permits—which coal mines need in order to discharge waste into streams and other waterways. The EPA has objected to all of the permits, saying the Kentucky Division of Water didn’t provide a complete analysis of the potential damage the discharge could cause.

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3:50pm

Mon June 4, 2012
Environmental Watchdog

Western Kentucky Affected by Severe Drought

The weather roller coaster for Western Kentucky between 2011's record-settling rainfall in the early part of the year and this year's drought-like conditions for the same period is proving to be no fun at all. After widespread flooding during the spring of 2011, drought has crept into western Kentucky in 2012. While some areas received much needed rain as May turned to June, other areas saw only enough to settle the dust.

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11:06am

Mon June 4, 2012
Environmental Watchdog

EPA to Hold Hearings on Mining Permits

The Environmental Protection Agency is in Kentucky this week for two hearings on mining permits. The state’s Division of Water issues permits to coal mines to discharge into waterways, but the EPA has the authority to review the permits. Over the past two years, the EPA has objected to 36 Kentucky permits. In its objection letters, the agency lays out the problems with the permits. The main problem, the EPA says, is that Kentucky didn’t provide a complete analysis of the potential damage the discharge could cause to waterways.

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10:50am

Fri June 1, 2012
Environmental Watchdog

Judge Orders EPA to Set Particle Pollution Standards

A federal judge has given the Environmental Protection Agency one week to set standards for fine particle pollution across the United States. These are the fine particles that come out of factories, power plants and automobiles. Paul Cort is an attorney for nonprofit Earthjustice. He argued the case.

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3:38pm

Wed May 30, 2012
Environmental Watchdog

AEP to Reconsider Alternatives to Coal

American Electric Power may have changed its mind about the future of the coal-fired Big Sandy Power Plant in Eastern Kentucky. The company has an application pending with the Kentucky Public Service Commission to install pollution controls at the plant to continue burning coal. But WFPL has learned that AEP filed to withdraw the application today.

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4:19pm

Wed May 23, 2012
Environmental Watchdog

EPA Raises Concerns About Plan for Coal Ash Landfill

The Environmental Protection Agency has concerns about the environmental impact of a 218-acre coal ash landfill in Trimble County proposed by Louisville Gas and Electric. LG&E is asking for permission to construct the landfill near its Trimble County power plant. If it’s permitted, the site will store coal ash—the waste that’s leftover after coal is burned. The company currently stores the Trimble County plant’s ash in an impoundment pond, but the pond is getting full and the company needs to find somewhere else to store the ash.

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3:52pm

Wed May 23, 2012
Environmental Watchdog

Greenpeace Protests at Yum Brands HQ

Activists from Greenpeace unfurled a banner on the Yum Brand headquarters on Gardiner Lane early this morning, in a move they say is meant to protest the company’s paper supplier. The banner has a picture of a Sumatran tiger. It says “KFC, stop trashing my home.” Louisville Metro Police spokesman Dwight Mitchell says four of the protesters were cited with criminal mischief and trespassing, and the remaining five were cited for trespassing. None were taken into custody.

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9:41am

Wed May 16, 2012
Environmental Watchdog

Paducah Uranium Plant to Remain Open

Key agreements with the federal government and energy suppliers will allow the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant to stay open for another year. The plant processes uranium for use in nuclear power plants. Under the new agreement, the plant has federal approval to re-enrich depleted uranium for the Tennessee Valley Authority and Energy Northwest. The United States Enrichment Corporation, the plant’s operator, previously said allowing re-enrichment at the plant was necessary to turn a profit.

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6:19pm

Mon May 14, 2012
Environmental Watchdog

Coal Use Continues to Decrease

The federal government has released its short-term energy outlook, and the news isn’t good for coal. This time last year, about 44 percent of America’s electricity was generated from coal. Now, that share has fallen to 36 percent. The news was predictably rosy for natural gas: low prices and increased environmental controls on coal mean more plants are burning gas, and natural gas has continued to expand its generation share.

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1:22pm

Tue May 8, 2012
Environmental Watchdog

Ash Trees in Danger From Voracious Beetle

Dying ash trees on McGarry Dr. in Lexington. The emerald ash borer is killing many untreated ash trees in Lexington.
Charles Bertram/Lexington Herald-Leader

The emerald ash borer has killed many ash trees since appearing in Kentucky in 2009, but arborists fear this could be the year when the voracious beetle really sinks its teeth into some of Lexington's most beautiful ash trees. Fortunately, even trees infested with ash borers can be saved if treated with chemical agents, said John Saylor, arborist-technician with the Urban County Division of Environmental Policy.

10:24am

Mon May 7, 2012
Environmental Watchdog

Severe Weather Expected Later Today

Thunderstorms could move into central and southern Kentucky this afternoon and evening. The storms - with damaging winds, heavy rainfall, hail and frequent cloud to ground lighting - could be created when a cold front combines with an already moist atmosphere, according to the National Weather Service. Showers and storms will linger over the Lake Cumberland and Bluegrass regions of the state Tuesday but severe weather is not expected.

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1:59pm

Thu May 3, 2012
Environmental Watchdog

State Approves Natural Gas Proposal

The Kentucky Public Service Commission Thursday approved a proposal by Kentucky Utilities Co. and Louisville Gas & Electric Co. to construct a natural gas-fired generating facility at LG&E’s Cane Run plant in Jefferson County and to purchase an existing natural gas-fired plant in Oldham County. KU and LG&E plan to construct a 640-megawatt combined cycle generating plant at Cane Run. Combined cycle plants are designed to operate most of the time.

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12:00am

Mon April 30, 2012
Environmental Watchdog

New Threats to Kentucky Trees

Two insects continue to plague Ash and Hemlock trees across Kentucky.  The fight focuses on the Emerald Ash Borer and the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid.  State Forester Leah MacSwords says these bugs were likely transported from abroad into the U-S.  McSwords says they’re now looking for a bug that will eat those insects now damaging Ash and Hemlock trees.

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12:50pm

Fri April 27, 2012
Environmental Watchdog

Groups Allowed to Intervene in Pollution Settlement

The Kentucky Supreme Court has ruled environmental groups and citizens may intervene in a lawsuit against a coal mining company. The Supreme Court’s ruling upholds Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd’s decision to let environmental groups intervene in the case. The groups—which include Appalachian Voices and Kentuckians for the Commonwealth—wanted a voice in the case, because they oppose a settlement reached between the state and Frasure Creek Mining for violations of the Clean Water Act in eastern Kentucky.

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4:18pm

Wed April 25, 2012
Environmental Watchdog

Green Initiatives Gain Momentum in Schools

Rosa Parks Elementary School in Lexington was one of three Kentucky schools awarded the federal Green Ribbon designation for its work on sustainability issues this week. But a trend toward environmental awareness is gathering momentum in schools across the county. When it comes to green issues, Rosa Parks Elementary is leading the way. Tresine Logsdon, Energy and Sustainability Curriculum Coordinator for Fayette County Public Schools, says earning a green ribbon takes a multifaceted approach.

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7:01pm

Mon April 23, 2012
Environmental Watchdog

New Law Opens Loopholes for Nuclear Energy

On paper, Kentucky has a ban on nuclear power plants. That’s still the case. But a new law opens up new ways for nuclear energy to be used in the Commonwealth. One of the things House Bill 559 allows is the re-enrichment of depleted uranium tails. But the legislation doesn’t go very far to help the one facility in the state that has been waiting for federal approval to re-enrich uranium tools.

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4:39pm

Wed April 18, 2012
Environmental Watchdog

Feds Discuss Destruction of Chemical Weapons

The U.S. Defense Department said Tuesday that it will take another $2 billion and another two years to rid Kentucky and Colorado of their stockpiles of chemical weapons. But the director a Berea-based watchdog group said he is confident that the nerve and blister agents at Blue Grass Army Depot in Madison County can be destroyed before 2023, which is the revised completion date for their destruction. The previous completion date was 2021.

9:39am

Mon April 16, 2012
Environmental Watchdog

Residents Raise Concern Over Pipeline Repair

Phillip Stokely was just a boy in 1972, when his father's house in Clark County was damaged by construction of a crude-oil pipeline through the north edge of the property. Now, 40 years later, Stokely owns the house, and he's afraid the same thing will happen all over again. Marathon Petroleum is replacing parts of the pipeline, and it wants to route a new section of pipe past the south end of Stokely's home. The company's plan would have put the edge of the pipeline right-of-way only about 15 feet from the house's foundation. Marathon recently agreed to move the right-of-way back to about 70 feet from the house. Stokely doesn't like it but says he can probably live with it.

12:00am

Mon April 16, 2012
Environmental Watchdog

Wetlands in Outdoor Classroom in Richmond

A large sunken area behind Madison County’s Glen Marshall Elementary school is  undergoing a conversion.   It allows school children to explore their own wetlands area. The soft soil in the deep pit like area behind the school is becoming a home for new plants and hopefully crawling animals.  Stephen Richter is a biological science professor at Eastern Kentucky University.  Richter says studies show being outside helps kids learn.

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12:02pm

Thu April 12, 2012
Environmental Watchdog

EKU Designated "Tree Campus"

Thousands of trees of all shapes and sizes on Eastern Kentucky University’s 912 acre Richmond campus helped earn the school a Tree Campus U-S-A designation.  The national program, which was launched in 2008 by the Arbor Day Foundation, honors colleges and universities that nurture trees and engage students in conservation efforts.  E-K-U biology professor David Brown says trees are well tended to at the university.

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