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balancing the scales, June 10, 2013

Canary Project Update

Years later, permit given for mining in Sloans Valley

Residents of the Sloans Valley area of Pulaski County once again find themselves fighting to protect their homes and community after the Beshear administration granted a strip mine permit for a controversial mining operation. Starting in 2007, residents and supporters worked to stop the proposed expansion of a mountaintop removal operation. Besides their homes and water, they pointed out that the proposed mine also threatens the world-class Sloans Valley Cave System (listed in the Atlas of Great Caves of the World) and the pristine Neeley’s Creek (which drains into Lake Cumberland), and would disturb the location of Harriette Simpson Arnow’s literary masterpieces about Kentucky, its people, culture and natural beauty.

In 2008, the Friends of Sloans Valley filed a petition to have land in Pulaski and McCreary counties designated unsuitable for all types of mining. KFTC was granted intervener status. State officials did not grant the petition but did place restrictions on the 900 acres where the new mining would take place. Those restrictions included no variance from the approximate original contour requirement and restoration of the land to a higher or better use, in this case hardwood forest. Although the law already requires both of these, state officials routinely allow waivers at the request of coal companies. Additional restrictions include betterthan-usual sediment controls, a limited blasting schedule, and no blasting on

weekends and federal holidays so as to not disturb the “higher number of visitors engaging in recreational activities” in the nearby cave system during these times. However, an appeals court ruled last year in a different case that blanket restrictions could not be placed on an area without also designating that area unsuitable for mining. This past March, state officials granted Jamieson’s Construction a mining permit. “After years of nothing happening the permit was issued on March 21, 2013. Gratefully I heard from KFTC about the permit being issued because it still had not

appeared on the state site,” said Joanne Golden Hill, who would have to deal with mining behind her house. “Friends of Sloans Valley has filed for an administrative hearing. We await the answer with great anticipation, fearing the destruction of the caves and waterways of our county.” The company still needs to get a water discharge permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that will be reviewed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Residents hope that this will give them another avenue for protecting their water and community.

Quick action in mid-May helped stop several anti-clean water amendments in the U.S. Senate. Many of the worst amendments – including one by Kentucky Senator Rand Paul that would have gutted the Clean Water Act and two by West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin that would have crippled EPA’s efforts to protect the public from the worst effects of mountaintop removal – were not voted on. Negotiations went down to the final minutes as Senate leaders discussed which of dozens of amendments to the Water Resources Development Act of 2013 (S. 601) would receive a vote. KFTC members were among the many concerned citizens around the nation who called in to Senate leadership asking that they stop the bad amendments.

The Senate did vote on an amendment similar to the one pushed by Sen. Paul (sponsored by Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming), designed to limit Clean Water Act protections to 59 percent of U.S. streams and millions of acres of wetlands. That amendment needed 60 votes to pass but got only 52, with Paul and Sen. Mitch McConnell voting in favor. These issues are likely to resurface in the future, as anti-EPA senators and representatives look for other bills to add on these amendments. The KFTC Executive Committee, along with a couple dozen other groups, signed on to a letter to all U.S. senators expressing strong opposition to these amendments whenever and however they are brought up again.

Anti-EPA, anti-clean water effort fails in U.S. Senate

Are you curious about the quality of the water in your community? Then attend a workshop on Saturday, June 22 and learn how to do basic tests of local streams, learn how to get others in your community involved, and learn about other water quality issues we face in the mountains. This workshop is free and open to the public. People of all skill and interest levels are encouraged to attend. Registration is encouraged but not required. For more information or to register, please visit: Hands-on Community Water Testing Workshop Saturday, June 22 10:30 am – 4:30 p.m.

KEA P-burg Office 3018 S. Lake Drive Prestonsburg, KY

June 2013 - balancing the scales  

This is the June 2013 edition of balancing the scales, the organizational newsletter of Kentuckians For The Commonwealth