Environment

An agreement has been reached between Louisville Gas and Electric Company and the Sierra Club in their dispute over the discharge of wastewater from an LG&E coal ash pond.

If approved by a federal judge, the agreement will resolve a lawsuit filed by the Sierra Club, represented by the group Earthjustice.

The suit alleged that LG&E was illegally discharging wastewater at levels beyond what was allowed under a state permit into the Ohio River. The wastewater came from its Mill Creek Generating Station in southwestern Jefferson County.

Under the agreement, LG&E will, among other things, eliminate the use of the disputed open discharge point, except for emergencies and maintenance, and fund $1 million in watershed restoration in Kentucky, primarily in southwestern Jefferson County.

“We are pleased that we were able to reach an agreement with LG&E that will help protect water quality in the Ohio River and fund an effort to address other water quality issues in the Mill Creek watershed,” said Judy Lyons, chair of the Sierra Club Cumberland Chapter. “Going forward, we will continue to encourage the company to focus on expansion of renewable sources of energy as it reduces its reliance on coal.”

LG&E chairman, CEO and president Victor A. Staffieri issued a statement Tuesday saying the company appreciated the opportunity to work with the Sierra Club “in finding common ground.”

“We had a vigorous disagreement over the meaning of certain permit language in this case but are glad to have reached a resolution that brings this dispute to an end,” he said. “While we may not always agree with the Sierra Club, we take seriously our commitment to being a good environmental steward while providing low-cost, reliable energy to our customers.”

Earthjustice attorney Thomas Cmar represented the Sierra Club in the lawsuit. In a statement, Cmar applauded the settlement, saying it would improve water quality throughout the Mill Creek watershed.

“It’s a good day whenever two opposing sides can see past their differences to reach an agreement that is not only in their best interests but will also provide real benefits to the community,” he said.

The agreement finds no violation of law by LG&E and does not include fines or civil penalties. LG&E plans to close its main coal ash pond at Mill Creek.

Rick Howlett is WFPL's Broadcast Managing Editor and also produces feature and general assignment radio stories.