EPA to hold hearings on Kentucky coal permits
by Cris Ritchie
The Environmental Protection Agency will host a series of three public hearings in June to accept public comment on 36 Kentucky mining permits, against which the EPA has filed objections. Five of those permits were filed by companies operating in Perry County.
The hearings were scheduled in response to requests from state officials in Kentucky after the EPA filed what the agency termed as a “specific objection” to each of the permits over concern that they would not “protect water quality, the environment and human health consistent with the Clean Water Act.” The permits on file specifically deal with water discharges from the proposed operations.
In a statement released on Monday, the EPA noted that the Kentucky Division of Water has issued 115 such permits, called National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits, in the past three years. The agency requires those permits for certain mines or processing operations that discharge pollutants into streams or waterways.
Gwen Keyes Fleming is the EPA’s Region 4 administrator, and noted that these scheduled hearings will take place in order for the agency to gather comments or concerns from those who would be impacted by the most by these operations.
“Our intent is not to stop coal mining, but to ensure it proceeds in an environmentally acceptable way,” she said. “We are holding these hearings on our permit objections to hear from those directly impacted and are hopeful that, following the hearings, the remaining 36 permits will be developed by KDOW with appropriate site-specific controls that will allow these projects to move forward while protecting human health and water quality as required by the CWA.”
The five permits pertaining to operations in Perry County include one permit that was filed in October 2010 by ICG Hazard. Other Perry County permits were filed by Leeco, Frasure Creek, Blue Diamond and BDCC Holding Company in September 2011, according to the EPA’s public notice of the hearings. Other counties where permits were filed include Knott, Leslie, Harlan and Pike. All of the 36 permits are for proposed operations in Eastern Kentucky.
The first hearing is scheduled for June 5 at the Frankfort Convention Center from 7 to 11 p.m., while the remaining two hearings will be held on Thursday, June 7 at the Eastern Kentucky Expo Center in Pikeville. The first of those hearings will begin at 4 p.m., with the second beginning at 7 p.m.
Anyone wishing to attend a hearing is encouraged to pre-register by calling 703-577-4953, though the EPA is not requiring pre-registration. Anyone who does pre-register can at that time request to speak at one of the hearings, though the EPA will also accept written comments either at the hearing, by mail or electronically.
Once the hearings are completed, the EPA says it will review all comments, as well as the requirements of the Clean Water Act and other regulations, and then make a determination as to whether the permits in question should be modified, or if the agency’s initial objection should be reaffirmed or withdrawn.
If the EPA opts to modify a permit, the Kentucky Division of Water will have 30 days to submit to the EPA a revised permit. If the EPA withdraws its objection, the Division of Water can continue the issuance process.
More information on how to pre-register and submit comments can be found online at www.epa.gov/region4/kycoalminehearings. Copies of the NPDES permits, as well as fact sheets and specific objection letters can also be found at that website.
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