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Environmental groups are going to court to argue that Kentucky and West Virginia are doing a poor job of enforcing federal clean water rules.

Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, the Sierra Club, and others say the states haven’t done enough to control pollution from surface coal mines, causing damage to nearby streams and rivers.

The groups behind the federal lawsuits say they asked the Environmental Protection Agency years ago to rescind Kentucky and West Virginia’s authority over surface coal mine discharges. But the plaintiffs say the EPA never responded to that request.

The Herald-Leader reports the lawsuits are designed to compel the federal agency to act. The suits claim Kentucky doesn’t have enough employees to adequately monitor surface mine pollution, failed to set appropriate limits on pollutants, and issued mining permits under rules that included less scrutiny of applicants.

A spokesman for the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet says his group believes they have been implementing all programs in accordance with state and federal regulations.

Updated at 5:46 p.m.

The White House says President Obama will veto any congressional legislation that approves the Keystone XL pipeline.

"If this bill passes this Congress, the president wouldn't sign it," White House press secretary Josh Earnest said.

NPR and four other news organizations are challenging a sweeping gag order issued in the federal criminal case against former coal mining executive Don Blankenship.

Four-and-a-half years after they were first announced, the Environmental Protection Agency plans to finalize the nation’s first federal rules on the handling of coal ash this month.

The Senate is scheduled to vote tonight on the Keystone XL pipeline. The bill cleared the House last week, and if passed in the Senate, the next stop is President Barack Obama’s desk.

NPR’s Jeff Brady, who covers energy, speaks with Here & Now’s Robin Young about the potential impact the pipeline could have on the American public, including the possibility of creating potential jobs, lowering energy prices and affecting the environment.

If you've got decisions to make at the meat counter (or at a burger joint) and want to do right by the environment, you have a couple of options.

You could skip the beef entirely, which is what some environmental groups say you should do. Or you could go for meat with a "grass-fed" or "organic" label.

National Park Service

The chief law enforcement officer at Mammoth Cave National Park says one of her top challenges is keeping ginseng-poachers out of the area.

The plant’s root is highly prized for its alleged medicinal benefits, and Mammoth Cave Chief Ranger Lora Peppers says wild-grown ginseng can command high prices on the black market--especially in certain Asian countries.

“Digging ginseng in the park is obviously not allowed, but a lot of people are looking for that wild-grown ginseng. The ginseng that you find in some farms is not valued as highly as native ginseng.”

Peppers, an Edmonson County native and WKU graduate, says park employees have scoured the area to find ginseng and mark plants found within the park’s boundaries. Those markings make it much easier to prosecute poachers who sell illegally-harvested ginseng taken from the Mammoth Cave area.

In a speech at the U.N. Climate Summit, President Obama called for a more ambitious global approach to environmental issues, and noted a new push to boost what the White House calls "global resilience" in the face of climate change.

We embedded video of the president's speech here and posted updates below.

Harmful Algal Blooms Not a Concern for Most of Western Kentucky, So Far

Sep 16, 2014
LBL Forest Service

The Kentucky Division of Water has identified potentially harmful algal blooms, or HABs, in 15 Kentucky lakes this summer, including Carpenters Lake in Daviess County. The lakes are still open, but the DOW advises the public to avoid exposure to HABs, which can cause skin irritation and stomach pain.

Environmental biologist for the DOW Mark Martin said more data is needed to determine whether or not HABs are happening more frequently, but the amount of nutrients like nitrates and phosphorous that are making their way into the watershed has increased over the last few decades, improving conditions for HABs.

Martin said Division of Water will analyze west Kentucky lakes next year. He says HABs prefer still water and may not be much of a concern in Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley because the water flows through them quickly. He said it is more likely to find HABs in bays where backwater stagnates, allowing for the accumulation of algae.

The most severe form of black lung disease is at levels not seen since the early 1970s, according to new data from the National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety.

NIOSH has been testing underground coal miners in Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia for the disease for 40 years.

In the data letter published today in a scientific journal, researchers say there has been a startling resurgence of complicated black lung.

This is despite federal laws that were supposed to control dust in coal mines and eradicate the disease. 

Evan Smith is an attorney with the Appalachian Citizens Law Center in Whitesburg.