Environment
12:45 pm
Fri July 18, 2014

Federal Judge Allows Coal Ash Lawsuit Against LG&E to Move Forward

Credit Erica Peterson / WFPL

A federal judge has rejected most of the complaints filed against Louisville Gas and Electric and parent company PPL over persistent air pollution and coal ash issues at the company’s Cane Run Power Plant.

But he has allowed the suit to proceed on three of the claims—and the lawyer representing residents living near the power plant says the main thrust of the case remains.

LG&E and PPL had sought to have all 12 claims dismissed. U.S. District Judge Joseph McKinley agreed on nine of the claims, but did say that the plantiffs—six people living across the street from the plant—could sue on three of the claims included in the original lawsuit.

People living around Cane Run have been reporting incidences of coal ash dust and odors from the plant for several years. Most recently, LG&E was fined $113,250 by the Air Pollution Control District, resolving ten violations since 2012. But Kathy Little, Greg and Debra Walker, Richard Evans and Phillip and Faye Whitaker filed a lawsuit in December asking for monetary damages to cover cleanup of the ash on their properties, as well as civil penalties against LG&E. They also want the coal ash landfill to be capped immediately to prohibit any other ash from leaving.

Jeff Sanders, the lawyer for the Cane Run residents,  says the judge essentially tossed out all of the regulatory claims, but kept the common-law tort claims.

He says he's encouraged by the judge's ruling.

“I think that’s incredibly important for the residents in that area who have been subjected to all this dust over all these many years," Sanders says.

The judge also rejected a motion to remove parent company PPL as a defendant, and kept a claim against LG&E for operating the Cane Run power plant without a Title V air permit for the past seven years. The company claims it filed for the permit on time, but McKinley ruled there wasn’t adequate proof of that to dismiss the claim.

"We appreciate the court's ruling that many of the allegations in this litigation against us were either allegations that were improper or they were allegations that lacked merit to go forward,"  LG&E spokeswoman Natasha Collins said. "And while we may not agree with every element of the ruling, it's a thoughtful decision and it's one that has significantly pared down the litigation, which is something that we're pleased with at this stage."

Docket 49 - Memorandum Opinion and Order-1