Emil Moffatt

An environmental non-profit group will be in Owensboro Saturday to help clean up the Ohio River. 

Living Lands and Waters provides industrial strength cleanup with the use of barges, excavators, and tugboats.  The organization pulls from the rivers everything from cans and plastic bottles to tires and appliances. 

Programs Manager Tammy Becker says every cleanup is an eye-opening experience.

"Cleaning our rivers and keeping them clean are two different things, so by getting the volunteers out there to see firsthand how much stuff is out there, it creates a lot of public awareness," Becker told WKU Public Radio.  "I guarantee there's not a single person that volunteers with us and later goes out and throws a piece of garbage out their car window or off the side of their boat."

Living Lands and Waters is still looking for volunteers to help with Saturday’s cleanup on the Ohio River.  Those interested can register online at the group’s website

The cleanup will begin at 9:00 a.m. and volunteers should report to the boat ramp at English Park in Owensboro.

Art Smith, EPA

Preliminary work has begun to clean up a contaminated site in Ohio County.  The EPA is targeting large amounts of arsenic discovered a year ago.

The full-scale cleanup on Shinkle Chapel Road won’t begin until next year, but the EPA this week began preparing the site by re-building a driveway to the property, constructing a staging area for personnel and equipment, and moving contaminated waste into a pile and covering it. 

Art Smith is an on-site coordinator for the EPA’s Louisville office.  He says the arsenic has been there for at least 50 years and the concentration is extremely high.

"The concentrations are up to 75 percent pure arsenic in some locations, which is quite a bit unusual for a residential property," Smith told WKU Public Radio.

It’s unknown how the arsenic got on the property, which has one unoccupied home.  Smith says there should be no threat to the public.  The contaminated area is surrounded by a fence, locked gates, and signage.


Another of Kentucky’s coal-fired power units will be shut down in the next few years, further reducing the state’s carbon dioxide emissions.

Owensboro Municipal Utilities announced last week that it plans to shut down Unit 1 of the Elmer Smith Power Plant sometime between 2019 and 2021.

The Elmer Smith plant has two coal-fired units; Unit 2, the larger of the two, will continue to operate for the foreseeable future.

The plant is the latest of the state’s coal-fired power plants to be shut down. As the state’s coal fleet ages — more than half of the coal plants operating in 2011 were built before 1970 — utilities are being forced to decide whether it will save money to update the plants or shut them down. In many cases, the decision is influenced by stricter environmental regulations and the low cost of other fuels, like natural gas.

Elmer Smith Unit 1 produced more than a million tons of carbon dioxide in 2014. Kentucky is facing steep carbon dioxide emissions cuts under the federal Clean Power Plan, and the unit’s retirement will get Kentucky’s projected emissions a little bit closer to compliance with the federal standard.

Fracking Could Keep Tourists Away From Kentucky Parks

Sep 11, 2015
Kentucky Waterways Alliance

A new study finds that hydraulic facturing, or “fracking,” in or near public parks could cause tourists to stay away.  Kentucky residents are more likely than park users in the four other states surveyed to avoid areas near fracking. 

The study examined the perception of fracking by 255 people who go to public parks in  Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and West Virginia. Thirty-three of them were from Kentucky.

One member of the research team was Tim Kellison, an assistant professor of tourism, recreation  and sport management at the University of Florida.

"Fifty-one percent of Kentuckians said they were unwilling to participate in recreational activities near a fracking operation," said Kellison. "Thirty-eight percent of our five-state sample said that, so about a 13 point difference.”

Kentucky residents who responded to the survey said they go to seven different state and national parks, including Barren River Lake State Resort Park, Cumberland Falls State Park, Mammoth Cave National Park, E.P. “Tom” Sawyer State Park, Iroquois Park, Big Bone Lick State and Natural Bridge State Park.

Members of the research team were also from Florida State University and North Carolina State University.

The report of the study, “Fracking and Parkland: Understanding the Impact of Hydraulic Fracturing on Public Park Usage,” is available at  http://www.stadiatrack.com/fracking.

NOAA, via http://response.restoration.noaa.gov/

The U.S. Coast Guard is conducting tests to determine if it is possible to clean up more than 120,000 gallons of clarified slurry oil that spilled into the Mississippi River after a tow boat collision Wednesday night. 

Coast Guard spokesperson Lora Ratliff said it may be impossible to recover the oil because it sinks. The Coast Guard reported Saturday there were no visible signs of oil along the river bank.

Ratliff said air monitors have shown the spill has not impacted air quality.

The Coast Guard and National Transportation Safety Board are still investigating the cause of the collision.


Residents offered their two-minute takes in Lexington Thursday on a thousand-page federal coal mining regulation that’s been years in the making.

The Stream Protection Rule was proposed in July by the federal Office of Surface Mining and Reclamation. It’s a rewrite of a Reagan-era regulation that was weakened under President George W. Bush and then thrown out by a federal court last year. Since then, coal companies have been following the 32-year-old version of the rule.

The proposed regulation places requirements on coal companies that mine near streams. Both the proposed and the original rules put a 100-foot buffer zone in place around streams and waterways. But the new version proposes different criteria for different mining activities. Like the original, it wouldn’t ban valley fills — which is when mining waste is discarded in valleys.

Most of the comments on Thursday didn’t revolve around the rule’s merits or disadvantages, but instead the idea that this regulation is another step in a calculated effort to weaken the coal industry.

U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, R-6, said the rule would “ban coal mining in Appalachia” and called for a balance between the economy and environmental stewardship.

Mammoth Cave National Park is raising concerns about a proposed pipeline that would stretch along a 256-mile path through Kentucky.  Kinder Morgan’s plan to re-purpose a natural gas pipeline has created controversy. 

The 70-year-old pipeline would carry natural gas liquids, and Mammoth Cave officials worry about a spill.  Bobby Carson is the park’s chief of science and resource management.

"There's a potential if the liquids get loose and get into our cave ecosystem, it can impact the groundwater and cave biota such as the Kentucky Cave Shrimp that live underground," Carson told WKU Public Radio.

Park Superintendent Sarah Craighead recently sent a letter to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission which is conducting an environmental assessment of the proposed project.  She made several requests, including a list of all potential chemicals that could be moved through the pipeline. 

Kinder Morgan has said it will examine the pipeline closely, make upgrades where needed, and thoroughly test it before returning it to service.

Office of Ky Governor

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear was unclear Tuesday evening about whether his Energy and Environment Cabinet would continue working on a plan to help the state comply with the Environmental Protection Agency’s final Clean Power Plan, which it released the day before.

The governor also said he would support a lawsuit against the EPA over the new rule, aligning with Attorney General Jack Conway — the Democratic candidate for governor — and reversing his previous position.

The Clean Power Plan represents the first national limits on carbon dioxide from existing power plants, with an eye toward protecting human health and the environment. It sets emissions reduction goals for each state and lets the states craft individual plans to comply. States that don’t create a plan could be subject to a federal one.

When the EPA released its proposal last year, Conway joined other states in suing the agency. But at the time, Beshear stressed that Conway wasn’t acting for him in that lawsuit, and the Energy and Environment Cabinet began work on a state compliance plan.

Flickr/Creative Commons/NASA

Climate change will begin to have a demonstrative effect on Kentucky’s economy within five years.

This is the conclusion from a report released today by the nonprofit Risky Business. The organization is dedicated to exploring the economic effects of climate change, and is chaired by liberal billionaires Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer, as well as former banker and George W. Bush-era Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson.

Recently, groups have begun focusing on the economic costs of climate change, considering any discussion or debate over the science or existence of climate change to be unnecessary. Yesterday, 13 major companies including Walmart, UPS, General Motors and Google launched the “American Business Act on Climate Pledge,” and pledged to reduce emissions with an eye toward their bottom lines.

Today, Risky Business’ report analyzes the factors around the Southeast that will become amplified as the climate changes. Researchers identified “likely” outcomes, which it defined as events with a 67 percent chance of happening if the country continues its current greenhouse gas emissions pattern.

Alfred Sommer, dean emeritus of the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health, worked on the report with Risky Business. He said it’s easy for politicians to bury their heads in the sand, but that’s a short-sighted perspective.

Under certain scenarios, a large percentage of Americans could subsist on a diet made up of mostly local food, according to a new study.