Regulators Will Hold Meeting on Proposed LG&E Trimble County Coal Ash Landfill This Week

Louisville Gas and Electric has filed another application to construct a coal ash landfill at the company’s Trimble County power plant, and state regulators are holding a public meeting this week.

Originally, LG&E proposed a 218 acre landfill on property near the company’s power plant in Trimble County. The landfill would hold coal ash, which is a byproduct of burning coal. But last year, the Kentucky Division of Waste Management denied the permit due to regulators’ concerns about a cave on the property.

Now, LG&E has proposed a new landfill, in a spot that won’t affect the cave. It’s slightly smaller—189 acres—and will also be on property the company owns in Trimble County.

But Tim Joice of Kentucky Waterways Alliance said his group still has major concerns about the landfill…like the miles of streams it would affect, and the possibility of a massive coal ash spill.

“These are all different things, of course,” Joice said. “But generally they go back to the same fundamental problem and that is the fact that state agencies are not doing their job, and industries are not doing their job. They are not maintaining their facilities, ensuring these things are going to fully protect human health and water quality.”

Joice said he would like to see regulators ask what alternatives LG&E has considered to constructing a new landfill. And in light of the Environmental Protection Agency’s recent conclusion that coal ash can be safely used in some building products, whether the company has explored recycling more of the ash.

LG&E spokeswoman Liz Pratt said the new plan is the company’s best option for disposing of coal ash on the site.

“Our objective is to balance environmental requirements and at the same time also maintain our responsibility to safely and reliably meet our customers’ energy needs in the most reliable and cost-effective manner,” she said.

She also said the landfill will comply with the EPA’s coal ash regulations, which are expected to be finalized in December.

In a follow-up email, Pratt reiterated the company’s finding that the Trimble County landfill is the best option for the site’s coal ash, though she didn’t elaborate on what other alternatives the company considered. But in February 2012, then-LG&E spokesman Chip Keeling told me the company could always truck the ash to Louisville.

Keeling says the proposed landfill would have the smallest possible effect on nearby waterways. But if it’s not permitted, the company has a contingency plan for Trimble County’s coal ash.

“Well the option that we’d probably be looking at right now would probably be trucking that fly ash to another one of our sites,” he said. “That would be more costly. Of course, what we’re trying to do is develop the least-cost option right now.”

That would mean Trimble County’s ash could end up in Louisville, at the Cane Run or Mill Creek power plants. Keeling says there’s capacity at both plants to handle the ash.

The Kentucky Division of Waste Management will hold a public meeting on Thursday at 7pm to answer questions on the proposed landfill. The meeting is at Trimble County High School, 1029 Highway 421 North, Bedford, KY. Comments can also be submitted in writing by March 3 to Ron Gruzesky, Division of Waste Management, 200 Fair Oaks, 2nd Floor, Frankfort, KY 40601. Use “AI 4054, Application No APE20140001″ as the subject.

UPDATE: Ron Gruzesky of the Division of Waste Management says the meeting won’t be a forum to make public statements about the landfill project, but rather, a chance for regulators to share information about the permit application and answer questions. He says local residents might have information that will help regulators evaluate the application–like the information about the cave that caused the state to deny LG&E’s first permit.

A previous version of this story stated that LG&E had withdrawn the permit after concerns about the cave emerged; in fact, Kentucky denied the permit.

Erica Peterson

Erica Peterson reports on energy and the environment for WFPL.

@ericampeterson

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