Officials from local, state, and federal agencies are watching over the cleanup of a mercury spill at Eastern Kentucky University. Last Thursday, mercury leaked from a broken barometer inside the Moore Science building. The incident occurred as equipment was moved into E-K-U’s new science facility. Some contamination was detected in both structures. E-K-U spokesman Marc Whitt says the all clear could come this week at the new science building.
Come next spring, a voluntary strategy to reduce overall power consumption in Lexington could be put before government leaders. A diverse team of environmentalists, business, agriculture, and government officials has worked on the Empower Lexington plan for about two years. Tom Webb, who’s an environmental manager, says the initiatives would affect public, private, and commercial sectors.
A new study published in a scientific journal shows the long-lasting effects mountaintop removal coal mining can have on a watershed. The study was conducted by a team from Duke University and published in the Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a respected peer-reviewed journal. In it, researchers studied the effects multiple surface mining operations have on the Mud River watershed in West Virginia.
Across the country, power plant operators are figuring out how they’ll comply with the Obama Administration’s upcoming rules to reduce air pollution. In Louisville, the utility company has announced plans to convert one of its older power plants from coal to natural gas. But at the Big Sandy plant in eastern Kentucky, another company says it’ll still be less expensive to keep burning coal.
The U.S. House and Senate are working to reach a compromise on spending bills to keep the government functioning. Several measures weakening environmental laws are being considered as riders to the legislation. The deadline to pass the spending bills is Monday, and neither Republicans nor Democrats want to be responsible for shutting the government down.
The former CEO of Massey Energy could be planning a coal mining operation in Kentucky, despite a history of disregard for mine safety laws. Don Blankenship filed papers with the Kentucky Secretary of State in January to incorporate a new coal company: McCoy Coal Group. Blankenship was in charge during last year’s deadly explosion at the Massey-owned Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia. That was the catalyst that drew nationwide attention to his company’s poor safety record, and to Blankenship, a cartoonish CEO who was known to intimidate mine inspectors and force miners to focus on production over safety.
The Commonwealth of Kentucky has assigned a special designation to a four-mile stretch of the Ohio River in Western Kentucky because scientists have found an endangered mussel species in the area. The mussel’s scientific name is Potamilus capax, but it’s commonly referred to as the “fat pocketbook” mussel because it resembles, well, a mussel-shaped purse.
Devastating floods have ravaged several eastern Kentucky communities in the last few years. Most start the same way: rain falls; creeks rise; and what residents have described as a ‘tsunami’ destroys everything in its path. Some citizens say coal mining is to blame, and they’re turning to lawsuits against coal companies to recoup damages. They say the companies didn’t reclaim surface mine sites, which directly contributed to the flooding.
About 6,400 gallons of ethyl alcohol spilled from the back of a Heaven Hill Distilleries facility off KY 49, Loretto Road, Saturday afternoon. Roughly a tanker truck’s worth of 180-proof, potable alcohol, used for blending at Heaven Hill, poured into a nearby creek and lake as firefighters, state environmental regulators and the Nelson County Emergency Management Agency were called to the scene. The accident occurred as a tanker truck was transferring the alcohol into a tank behind the distillery’s main bottling building.
The Environmental Protection Agency has unveiled a new version of a rule that would regulate air pollution from industrial boilers, which burn a wide range of fuels. The more flexible rule has angered environmental groups, while industry is cautiously optimistic.
With property owners in Lexington paying the bills, city officials are fighting to keep the cost of a half-billion dollars in sanitary sewer improvements under control. Lexington residents first saw fees levied on their sanitary sewers in the mid 1980’s. They’ve increased over the years,..most recently, in 2009 and again in 2010. Division of Water Quality Director Charlie Martin suspects it’s just a beginning and more rate increases are likely over the dozen years it will take to upgrade Lexington’s sanitary sewers.
Judges are considering a coal company’s appeal of a state decision that places restrictions on surface mining in an area of Floyd County. The case was heard by the Franklin County Court of Appeals ten days ago. Several years ago, Beverly May spearheaded a petition asking the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet to declare the area around Wilson Creek in Floyd County unsuitable for mining. The petition was denied, but Cabinet Secretary Len Peters put certain restrictions on mining in the area.
A Northpoint Training Center inmate suffered minor injuries Tuesday when he was exposed to a discarded meth lab while picking up trash along Hogue Hollow Road in southern Boyle County. Deputy Sheriff Jody Adams said the inmate, who was not identified, may have inhaled some chemical residue when the bottom of a bag he was collecting broke open and spilled materials and ingredients used to make methamphetamine.
In anticipation of growth in the biomass industry, the Kentucky Division of Forestry has released guidelines for biomass harvesting. The document lays out suggestions for harvesting the material in a sustainable way that will have minimal effect on the forest.
Officials from the Department of the Interior are taking criticism over a proposal to merge the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement with the Bureau of Land Management. Regulators were in a Senate committee hearing today over the issue, but Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky took the opportunity to bring up another topic: stream protection in Appalachia.
An order beginning the merger of the federal department that regulates surface mining with the Bureau of Land Management is set to take effect in two weeks. The consolidation was the subject of a hearing today before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
Thanks to some grant money from Frankfort, seven illegal dumps in Breathitt County will be cleaned up. That's because almost $2.1 million were released by the state Monday to the county's Solid Waste organization, as well as 28 other counties in Kentucky. Breathitt's total from the Kentucky Pride Fund comes to $33,916.80. The seven dumps in Breathitt County are part of 171 illegal dumps statewide that will be affected.
FRANKFORT – Kentucky's first sandhill crane hunting season will open soon, and hunters may begin applying for permits Tuesday, Nov. 15 through Nov. 30. The drawing is scheduled for Dec. 5. Applications are only available online at the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources website, www.fw.ky.gov. Each application costs $3 and a hunter may only apply once.
Kentucky is in compliance with the country’s National Ambient Air Quality Standard for lead, which was updated three years ago, and is stricter than it used to be. Lead is emitted mostly from facilities that manufacture products like batteries and aluminum. John Gowins with the Division of Air Quality says it’s significant that Kentucky is in compliance, because the Environmental Protection Agency recently enacted much stronger standards.
All four public schools in Butler County have achieved Energy Star awards, making it the first district in Kentucky to be recognized for each of its schools. Energy Star is the Environmental Protection Agency’s symbol for superior energy efficiency.
The Kentucky Division of Forestry has reportedly been battling forest fires in Harlan County since Friday. A good size forest fire became a problem Sunday night in the Dressen area. The Sunshine Volunteer Fire Department and Harlan County Sheriff’s Office deputies were sent to the scene to assist after houses were reportedly in danger. The firefighters secured the safety of the houses on the ground and foresters were busy containing the flames on the mountainside.
Kentucky utilities may soon need to comply with tighter air regulations. Republican Senator Rand Paul Thursday failed in his effort to defeat new clean air standards. The Environmental Protection Agency says coal fired power plants in Kentucky and twenty six other states spread particulates that cause asthma and premature deaths. Senator Paul attempted to block the EPA implementation of new clean air standards but his effort was defeated 41 – 56. Six fellow Republicans opposed the measure.
Kentucky Republican Rand Paul is forcing the Senate to vote today to block new pollution regulations from going into effect on the East Coast. The Environmental Protection Agency says particles from Kentucky’s coal fired power plants are spreading illnesses in neighboring states and even causing deaths. To combat the cross-border pollution the EPA is forcing twenty seven eastern states, including Kentucky, to drastically cut their emissions. Paul says the new rules will cost businesses more than two billion dollars and he says Kentucky air is already clean enough.
The Kentucky Public Service Commission has approved an expansion of residential and commercial energy conservation and efficiency programs for Kentucky Utilities Co. and Louisville Gas & Electric Co. In an order issued Wednesday, the PSC authorized KU and LG&E to continue 10 existing programs for residential or commercial customers and to initiate three new programs for residential customers. One of the new programs will provide incentives for the purchase of energy-efficient appliances.
Lexingtonians can celebrate America Recycles Day by taking part in a number of events in town. A free paper shred this Saturday, November 12th at the old landfill pad on Old Frankfort Pike from 9 AM to 2 PM is the main event. Cheryl Taylor with the city's Department of Environmental Quality and Public Works said it does more than help the environment.
Federal and state air pollution regulations are lacking when it comes to toxic air emissions, according to the new NPR series Poisoned Places: Toxic Air, Neglected Communities. A joint investigation by NPR and the Center for Public Integrity looks at air pollution across the country, and how some industries are finding regulatory loopholes.
If pollution regulations go into effect to limit carbon emissions at coal-fired power plants, Kentuckians' power bills will increase 60 percent or more, a University of Kentucky engineer said Thursday. Ninety-two percent of the Bluegrass State's electricity is generated by burning coal, which releases extra carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. That's blamed in part for global warming.
In recent years, China has surpassed the United States in how much coal it burns for electricity. But China is also investing a lot of money in technology to burn the coal more cleanly. That’s the conclusions from a Kentucky trade delegation that just returned from a 10-day trip to Shanghai, Beijing and Inner Mongolia. Kentucky’s trade delegation included representatives from the University of Kentucky, the state Chamber of Commerce and coal companies.