An influential Eastern Kentucky legislator owns the permits on Pike County coal mines that have been cited repeatedly by the state for safety and environmental violations.
Rep. Keith Hall’s Beech Creek Coal Co. and others that are mining coal on the Phelps Democrat’s permits have been cited since 2010 for dropping rocks on homes, mining outside of permitted areas, water pollution and failing to obey regulations on blasting, reclamation and maintaining slurry ponds.
Barbara Eldridge lives next to the largest of Beech Creek’s three surface mines near Phelps. A year ago, a rock slab the size of a truck tire slammed into her home, denting a wall and shattering a paved walkway.
“It’s a danger to everybody out here, I think. Every time you hear the blast, you wonder if something’s about to come down on you,” Eldridge said.
Neighbors and state records say rocks from that mine also have landed on the properties of four other neighbors, though no injuries have been reported.
As the Environmental Protection Agency begins its public forums on coal mining permits in Kentucky, U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell is rallying for coal to be a bigger part of the nation's energy portfolio.