Environment Local News

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear has sent a letter to President Obama asking for more consistency and clarity in regulation of the coal industry. The letter was a follow-up to a brief meeting between Beshear and President Obama at the Cincinnati airport last week.

Since the Environmental Protection Agency announced it would be scrutinizing surface mining permits in 2009, coal companies and regulators have complained about uncertainty. It’s expensive to apply for a permit, and no one was sure what the government would approve.

The questions should have been cleared up by a document the EPA issued earlier this summer that gave final guidance on permits for surface mining. But in his letter, Beshear says the EPA’s policies are still unclear to state regulators.

Energy and Environment Cabinet Secretary Len Peters says part of that is due to inconsistencies in the state’s dealings with the regional EPA and the headquarters in DC. He says Kentucky worked with the regional EPA on a template for future permits.

“We had come to an agreement with Region 4 about a permitting process that we felt was reasonable, we felt was fair and we felt we could use with the coal companies in a meaningful way,” he said.

Peters says the template included substantial concessions on the part of the state, including additions like a biological monitoring requirement. But the agreement was rejected by EPA headquarters.

Peters says the process is frustrating.

“We’re struggling to try to find out what a reasonable permit is, what an acceptable permit is after that template was denied by headquarters,” he said.

A decision is expected soon on 55 Kentucky permit applications that are awaiting federal action.

Requests to the Environmental Protection Agency for comment weren’t returned early this evening.