Environment

Glynis Board

Last month the Trump administration’s Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt chose an eastern Kentucky mining town as the venue to announce his intent to repeal the Clean Power Plan, an Obama-era rule that sought to limit greenhouse gas emissions. On Tuesday the agency returned to coal country to conduct its only public hearing on the matter in Charleston, West Virginia.


Erica Peterson

Kentucky wildlife officials say the state needs to combat Asian carp, an invasive species that is disturbing the ecosystem in Kentucky’s western lakes.

According to the National Parks Service, Asian carp were introduced to U.S. fish farms in the 1970s to control weed and parasite growth and eventually escaped into the Mississippi River.

Since then, the quick-breeding fish have made it to Mississippi River tributaries like the Ohio River and Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley in the westernmost part of the state.

Kenn W. Kiser, morgueFile.com

A bipartisan group in Congress, including several Ohio Valley lawmakers, is pushing for more federal support for technology known as carbon capture and storage. The lawmakers and an uncommon alliance of labor, business, and environmental groups want to pass legislation called the FUTURE Act which would speed commercial deployment of technology that reduces carbon dioxide emissions from industries that burn fossil fuels.

Such technology has been in development for decades. Today, a number of projects show various methods are possible to “scrub” CO2 from the waste stream and store it underground. However, it is still prohibitively expensive to scale up those projects to the level needed to affect the global output of carbon pollution.


Kentucky Mesonet

The statewide weather and climate monitoring network Kentucky Mesonet has installed its 69th station, which is  in a high-risk area for tornadoes.

The new Mesonet station is near Tompkinsville in Monroe County in south central Kentucky.

Patrick Collins is the Mesonet systems meteorologist. He says the real-time data collected at the Monroe County site is important because the area, which is just a couple of miles from the Tennessee border, is prone to tornadoes.

University of Kentucky

President Donald Trump is nominating a Lexington engineer to fill the top spot at the federal Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement.

The Department of the Interior announced Thursday that Steven Gardner of Lexington consulting firm ECSI has been tapped for the role. Gardner has more than four decades of experience working with and advocating for the mining industry.

In 2011, he testified before the House Committee on Natural Resources on the Obama administration’s Stream Protection Rule, which tightened regulations on surface coal mining.

Gardner and others raised questions about the justification used for the regulation, saying the Office of Surface Mining had prompted his company to change key calculations to lessen the perceived effect of the rule on jobs and coal production.

paringaresources.com

The Australian company developing a coal mine in McLean County reports that construction is accelerating. That move comes as county officials respond to a lawsuit filed by brothers who own land near the mine site. 

The Mclean County Fiscal Court and the McLean County Joint Planning Commission filed a response in McLean Circuit Court to allegations by brothers Gordon and Ken Bryant that approvals for the Hartshorne Mine were not in line with required procedures.

Peabody Energy, Inc., via Wikimedia Commons

The Environmental Protection Agency’s move to end the Clean Power Plan is the Trump administration’s latest attempt to support the struggling coal industry. The Department of Energy is also pushing a new way to subsidize coal power. But a new study suggests market forces -- not regulations -- will still make more coal power plants in the region vulnerable.

Ohio Valley lawmakers and industry leaders overwhelmingly support the move to dismantle the Clean Power Plan. Chris Hamilton of the West Virginia Coal Association says EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s announcement is welcomed relief.


Kenn W. Kiser, morgueFile.com

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency said Monday that he will sign a new rule overriding the Clean Power Plan, an Obama-era effort to limit carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants.

"The war on coal is over," EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt declared in the coal mining state of Kentucky. He said no federal agency "should ever use its authority" to "declare war on any sector of our economy."

Paringa Resources website

A new coal mine in McLean County is another step closer to reality after approval was given for two parts of the project on Sept. 25.

A member of the McLean County Board of Adjustment, Nancy Wetzel, said the board approved a conditional use permit for coal washing operations and the refuse pile for the Poplar Grove Mine.

The Australian company Paringa Resources and its Evansville, Indiana affiliate Hartshorne Mining Group have begun construction of the mine. The project is on 270 acres in the rural community of Semiway between Calhoun and Sacramento.

Photos by Kara Lofton, illustration by Jesse Wright, WVPB

Harvey. Irma. Maria. The hurricane season’s super-charged storms have highlighted the importance of disaster planning, and the aftermath offers a fresh lesson in just how long and difficult recovery can be.

Communities in the Ohio Valley, some still recovering from flash floods themselves, are looking at ways to prepare for what emergency management professionals warn is an era of more frequent extreme weather. 

It’s time, experts say, to get ready for the new normal.


US Army Corps of Engineers

Locks and Dam 52 on the Ohio River in western Kentucky is open to traffic after a week of being closed. The Corps of Engineers reports water is rising and expects the river to return to normal summer levels by the weekend.

The wickets at Dam 52, function like a bathtub to keep water in and establish a navigable level of water. During times of low water, wickets have to be raised individually.

Last week the corps was unable to raise about five wickets near Paducah, creating a hole and further lowering the water to an impassable level. Communications Director Carol Labashosky said they’re continuing work on Dam 52 but a more permanent fix is in progress.

MSHA

Lawmakers and union leaders are raising concerns about the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration’s practices amid an increase in coal fatalities.  

West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin asked MSHA for more information after receiving what he calls “alarming” reports about how the agency is implementing its new Compliance Assistance Program.

In a September 7th letter, Manchin wrote that he’s heard of miners being denied the ability to assign a representative to accompany MSHA inspectors and that those inspectors have been instructed to leave their credentials behind before inspecting a mine.


Erica Peterson

It may be nicknamed “The Sunny Side,” but solar installations in Indiana’s Clark and Floyd counties are still few and far between. A group of volunteers is trying to change that, and their push has intensified over the past few months.

At Jeffersonville’s First Presbyterian Church, Tricia Tull points to solar panels on the building’s roof. The church installed 13 kilowatts of solar two years ago, paying about $3 a watt. This year, they added 15 more kilowatts.

Sam Oldenburg, the Talisman

Tropical depression Harvey flooded roads and buildings across south central Kentucky Thursday night and Friday, causing many schools to be closed and activities canceled.

Warren County Emergency Management reports portions of about two dozen roads have been impassable at various times due to heavy rainfall.  

Kentucky Mesonet data shows between five and six inches of rain fell at monitoring stations from Smiths Grove to Bowling Green.

Southwings and Vivian Stockman

The Perry County Public Library in Hazard, Kentucky, lies along Black Gold Boulevard -- a name that nods to the wealth the coal from these hills has generated. On a recent Tuesday evening, however, the library was the venue for a hearing about the full costs of extracting that coal.

A team from the National Academy of Sciences visited to hear what the public had to say about  health impacts of surface mining.

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