Environment

This story has been updated.

Environmental groups have once again announced their intention to sue an Eastern Kentucky coal company for allegedly falsifying the pollution reports it submits to the state.

This is the fourth time in the past five years that these groups have initiated lawsuits against Frasure Creek Mining. In the previous three cases, the groups—including Appalachian Voices and Kentuckians for the Commonwealth—alleged that Frasure Creek submitted duplicate pollution reports from one month to another, and thus wasn’t accurately reporting water pollution.

This time, the groups allege Frasure Creek’s newer reports don’t accurately reflect what the lab results show about water pollution from the company’s coal mines. They allege the reports exclude numerous violations of the Clean Water Act; and with the maximum penalties, the violations could equate to millions of dollars in fines.

Ted Withrow of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth said he would like to see the Energy and Environment Cabinet force Frasure Creek to take corrective action, preferably with third-party monitoring of water pollution.

“You split samples and compare results and do whatever treatment it takes to clean up these mines, get these mines into reclamation,” he said.

In all three previous cases, the Cabinet stepped in and initiated their own enforcement action against Frasure Creek. The resulting settlement for two of the cases was challenged in court by the environmental groups, who argued the monetary penalty was too low. Franklin County Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd sided with the groups, but the cabinet is currently appealing that decision.

Withrow said his group would prefer to work with—rather than against—the Cabinet this time.

gabe_mtr“I’m hopeful that the cabinet will no longer be adversarial with us and join hands with us and try to get rid of this scofflaw company in the best way possible for the people and the environment,” he said. “We’re willing to help them if they’re willing to join hands with us and not be adversarial with us anymore.”

Energy and Environment Cabinet spokesman Dick Brown said in an email: “The review of records by the Department for Environmental Protection staff found numerous violations on which we have acted.  The Department felt that information was sufficient to make its case. We are currently reviewing the additional alleged violations.”

A call to Frasure Creek’s attorney was not returned Thursday morning.

Erica Peterson is WFPL's Director of News and Programming.