Environment

Environment
3:42 pm
Wed April 9, 2014

Beshear Awards $100,000 State Grant to Glasgow Project Designed to Convert Methane into Energy

The city of Glasgow has taken another step toward limiting the impact of methane gas released from its landfill.

Governor Steve Beshear was in Barren County Wednesday to present Glasgow city leaders with a $100,000 grant from the state to pursue a landfill gas generation project.

Currently, methane emitted from garbage at local landfills is vented into the atmosphere. Under the new plan, methane would be piped into a generator and converted into electricity.

“This methane gas to electricity process is something we need to do more of in this country," Beshear said. "And to take refuge in a landfill, and take the methane gas off of that and turn it into electricity and put it on the grid so that people can use it--it saves us all money, it saves the environment.”

Glasgow mayor Rhonda Trautman says the city is acting now to avoid problems later.

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Environment
4:38 pm
Tue March 25, 2014

Judge: Current Law Does Not Allow for Use of Eminent Domain for Controversial Pipeline Project

A Franklin County judge has ruled that Kentucky law doesn’t allow the use of eminent domain for a natural gas liquids pipeline. The move is the latest blow to the controversial Bluegrass Pipeline project.

The Bluegrass Pipeline would carry natural gas liquids across Kentucky to the Gulf of Mexico. The NGLs are used in manufacturing processes, but the project has been controversial because of worries about the project's environmental impact and safety concerns.

A measure to block NGL pipelines from using eminent domain is moving through the state legislature, but the Franklin County ruling adds another legal hurdle to the project. Judge Phillip Shepherd ruled that the pipeline doesn’t fall under the commonwealth’s definition of “public service,” and thus couldn’t use eminent domain.

Tom FitzGerald of the Kentucky Resources Council filed the lawsuit on behalf of several Kentucky landowners.

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Environment
3:56 pm
Fri March 21, 2014

Bill Passed by Kentucky House Would Disallow Eminent Domain for Pipeline Building

Bardstown Republican Rep. David Floyd debates an eminent domain bill in the Kentucky House of Representatives.
Credit Kentucky LRC

The Kentucky House of Representatives has passed a bill that would prevent the use of eminent domain in the construction of a proposed natural gas liquids pipeline.

Lawmakers voted 75-16 in support of the measure, which would only allow public utilities regulated by the state Public Service Commission to use eminent domain.

The measure is aimed at the Bluegrass Pipeline, which would carry byproducts from natural gas drilling in the Northeast to the Gulf of Mexico. It's proposed to cross 13 Kentucky counties.

Bardstown Republican David Floyd says the bill doesn't prevent the pipeline from being built, it just protects landowners from corporations.

“The pipeline will proceed," Floyd said. "What we’re trying to do is protect those private property owners, protect those landowners from the big, multi-state, carpet-bagging companies that want to come here and condemn their property without proper provocation.”

The bill now heads to the Senate.

Environment
8:05 am
Thu March 20, 2014

Bill Heading to Governor's Desk Allows Kentucky's Coal-Fired Plants to Regulate Own Emissions

The bill passed by the Kentucky House and Senate comes at a time when the EPA is trying to crack down on carbon emissions at coal-fired electric power plants.

A bill that would allow coal-fired electric power plants in Kentucky to regulate their own carbon dioxide emissions has passed out of both chamber of the state legislature.

The bill has received massive bipartisan support.

House Bill 388 was filed by Rep. Jim Gooch, who has private interests in coal-related businesses. His bill, which permits coal power plants in Kentucky to regulate their own levels of CO2, one of the major contributors to climate change.

The bill passed in his chamber, as well as the Senate, by unanimous vote.

Hazard Sen. Brandon Smith says the bill is designed to help the coal industry endure a period of hardship due to federal environmental regulations.

“To see us wanting to jump in to these white papers and these new clean air standards they’re pushing down on us without at least fighting back or sending some sort of signal that the House and the Senate do not agree with this, we felt like it left these areas vulnerable," Smith said.

The bill now heads to the governor’s desk.

Environment
5:57 pm
Mon March 17, 2014

Using Hidden Camera Evidence, Environmental Groups Plan to Sue LG&E for Discharges into Ohio River

After collecting a year's worth of images of what they say are illegal discharges from one of Louisville Gas & Electric's coal ash ponds into the Ohio River, environmental groups say they plan to sue the company. 

The Notice of Intent to sue filed by the Sierra Club and Earthjustice alleges that even though LG&E's permit allows “occasional” discharges directly into the Ohio River, the company has released water from its coal ash ponds into the river at least daily for the past five years.

"It’s obvious that they think they can operate with impunity," said Tom Pearce, a local Sierra Club organizer. "It’s the reason that we can’t eat fish out of our river. It’s the reason that our river is rates as one of the dirtiest rivers in the country. Is it any wonder?"

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Environment
3:11 pm
Sun March 9, 2014

Federal Study Recommends Green River Dam Removal

Mammoth Cave National Park
Credit WKU Public Radio

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has proposed removing a dam on the Green River near Mammoth Cave National Park.

The Daily News reports a study includes the recommendation, saying the action would improve aquatic life and recreational activities. Alternative actions include modifying the lock and not disturbing the dam, installing a barricade and disposing of the property or doing nothing.

The river has been closed to navigational traffic for decades and the study says the dams on the river have continued to deteriorate. In addition to removing Green River Dam No. 6 near Mammoth Cave, the study recommends disposing of three other dams along the river as well as Barren River Lock and Dam No. 1.

The federal agency is accepting comments on the proposal through March 17.

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Environment
4:34 pm
Wed March 5, 2014

Water Pollution Violations in Kentucky, Other States, Leads to Millions in Fines for Company

One of the nation's largest coal producers will pay more than $27 million in fines and spend another $200 million in a settlement with the federal government. Alpha Natural Resources was fined for violating water pollution limits in Kentucky and four other Appalachian states.

The settlement is for more than 6,000 violations between 2006 and last year. Some of the violations were at mines owned by other companies—like Massey Energy—that Alpha purchased. The EPA says the company’s Appalachian mines discharged large amounts of heavy metals directly into streams.

Alpha Senior Vice President Gene Kitts says the company has implemented advanced technology to control pollution at some of its coal mines.

"We feel the settlement is fair. We have systems already going into place," he said.

Kitts says the settlement payout won’t affect ongoing operations, or cause the company to close any mines or lay off any workers.

This is the largest penalty the EPA has ever levied under Section 402 of the Clean Water Act. After the settlement was announced, environmental groups sent out a statement criticizing the agency for letting the pollution happen in the first place.

Environment
3:31 pm
Wed February 26, 2014

Proposed Bluegrass Pipeline Would Be Impacted by Eminent Domain Bill Passed by Kentucky Commitee

Rep. Johnny Bell (D-Glasgow)
Credit Kentucky LRC

A legislative committee has advanced a bill to clarify Kentucky’s eminent domain laws.

If the bill becomes law it would amend Kentucky law to clarify that natural gas liquids pipelines—including the proposed Bluegrass Pipeline—aren’t eligible for eminent domain in the commonwealth.

Legal experts have disagreed as to whether the Bluegrass Pipeline could use eminent domain to obtain easements to carry the byproducts of gas drilling through Central Kentucky. The Judiciary Committee heard rushed testimony from several landowners, but none of the representatives from the laborers’ international union in attendance spoke. The group has previously voiced support for the pipeline.  

Representative Johnny Bell of Glasgow spoke directly to those union members when casting his vote.

"Those of you who are up here today to protect your jobs, we all appreciate that," the Barren County Democrat said. "Your job is important to you and it’s important to us, but I feel that a person’s property rights is one of the highest rights that we have in this country, so I vote yes on that and thank you all for being here today."

Now that the bill has cleared committee, it will be up for a vote on the House floor before it goes to the Senate.

Environment
5:38 am
Thu February 20, 2014

Bluegrass Pipeline Project Delayed a Year

Rep. James Kay, D-Versailles, presents a bill on property owner rights to the House Judiciary Committee as committee chair John Tilley, D-Hopkinsville, looks on.
Credit Kentucky LRC

One of the companies wanting to build a controversial pipeline to transport natural gas liquids across Kentucky says the project has been delayed up to a year.

In year-end 2013 financial results, Williams Co. President and CEO Alan Armstrong said the in-service target of the Bluegrass Pipeline project was being shifted to mid to late 2016 "to better align with the needs of producers."

The 500-mile pipeline, being built by Williams Co. of Tulsa, OK and Boardwalk Pipeline Partners of Houston, would carry liquids through northern and central Kentucky.

A group of Catholic nuns successfully redirected the route of the pipeline off their land last year and other religious leaders joined them to oppose the project, delivering thousands of signatures to Governor Beshear's office in November.

On Wednesday, Beshear endorsed legislation that would protect landowners from having their land seized for the project. That bill received its first committee hearing in Frankfort Wednesday. It would require private non-utility companies like those responsible for the Bluegrass Pipeline to obtain consent from a landowner before building.

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Business
10:51 am
Wed February 19, 2014

Miner Alleges Workplace Discrimination After Muhlenberg County Company Fired Him

A Western Kentucky coal miner is alleging several counts of workplace discrimination, after he reported safety problems at his job and was fired.

Four cases against Ken American Resources were filed last week.

Patrick Shemwell worked at a coal plant operated by Ken American in Muhlenberg County. He initially filed six discrimination complaints against his employer, saying he was retaliated against and ultimately fired for reporting safety problems at the prep plant.

The company settled, and Shemwell got his job back.

But according to the lawsuits filed last week, almost immediately, more problems arose. He reported unsafe conditions, was reassigned to equipment on which he had no training, received a death threat, and ultimately was fired again.

Since 1977, the federal Mine Safety and Health Act has protected miners from discrimination for reporting safety issues.

“My guess is that Patrick has filed more discrimination cases under that law than any other miner in the country during that time period," says Shemwell's lawyer, Tony Oppegard.

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