Environment
5:59 pm
Wed September 19, 2012

Kentucky Close to Settling With Coal Company Over Water Pollution Violations

A lawsuit filed by the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet against a coal company for water pollution is close to being settled.

The cabinet filed suit against two coal companies after evidence surfaced that suggested the companies hadn’t accurately reported water pollution violations. The case is between the coal companies and the commonwealth, but Franklin Circuit Court Judge Phillip Shepard also allowed several environmental groups—including Appalachian Voices and the Waterkeeper Alliance—to intervene.

A status report filed by the cabinet earlier this week suggests that a settlement is close with International Coal Group. The report includes two sizable penalties going to supplemental environmental projects. $335,000 will go towards eliminating straight pipes in eastern Kentucky, and $240,000 will go to monitor water pollution caused by coal mining operations.

Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bruce Scott says the cabinet, the companies and the environmental groups all came to an agreement.

“Everybody was very pleased with that proposal the cabinet made, and all parties agreed again that it was a good idea to have the money go into the area where there were impacts,” Scott said.

Scott says the dollar amounts of the settlement probably wouldn’t have changed if the groups weren’t involved. But the interveners have also reached an additional arrangement with the company to have a third party audit the company’s data collection.

“It does help, I don’t think there’s any question about that, in terms of additional oversight, but it is something that we didn’t necessarily think was necessary, but we weren’t opposed to doing it in the spirit of trying to settle all these issues,” Scott said.

He says a final settlement could be submitted to the court for approval by the end of the month. A settlement with Frasure Creek is further off, because the company is having financial problems and Scott says the first priority is making sure the company meets its obligations to reclaim former mine sites in Kentucky.

A spokesman for Appalachian Voices says the group won’t comment until the settlement is finalized.