Our Appalachia Water Watch team has been busy busting Big Coal in Kentucky with great results. After finding over 20,000 violations of the Clean Water Act, including evidence of tampering and falsification of discharge monitoring reports, we filed a legally required 60-day intent-to-sue letter. On day 59, the state of Kentucky announced a settlement, including $660,000 in fines against the coal companies, which preempted our case. While the state’s action is historic, the fines represent less than 1% of the maximum that could be levied under the Clean Water Act. Worse, evidence of tampering and falsification revealed in the 60-day notice and our comments to the EPA, were attributed to clerical errors by the state.
Today, our Water Watch team and other plaintiffs are in Frankfort, Kentucky to file a motion to intervene in the state’s settlement. At a pre-hearing press conference, Donna Lisenby of Appalachian Voices explained why the settlement does not sufficiently redress the companies’ violations or deter future violations, since it shifts the responsibility for the violations away from the coal companies and towards the water monitoring contractors.
The settlement would also preclude groups from bringing citizen suits against the defendants for violations of the law and would damage the groups’ ability and authority to punish and deter violations, granted under provisions of the Clean Water Act.
At the hearing, our counsel, Mary Cromer from Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center presented our case for why the state of Kentucky does not represent our interest in protecting the cleanliness and health of the Kentucky River, Big Sandy River, Licking River, and their tributaries and the communities who rely on these waterways, and why we should be allowed to intervene.
The judge ruled in our favor, granting us permission to file a brief in support of our motion to intervene and ordered the state of Kentucky to put the full complaint and consent judgment up on their website for a 30 day public notice and comment period.
The Lexington Herald-Leader called the state’s failure to enforce our nation’s clean water laws “a regulatory meltdown” and said our efforts “brought this travesty to light.”
Media from the pre-hearing press conference:
Louisville Courier-Journal: Groups want stiffer penalties for mining companies
Lexington Herald-Leader: Groups want more fines for 2 coal companies
Support our campaign, donate to Appalachia Water Watch today.
A special and heartfelt thank you to our partners in this fight to bust Big Coal including Kentuckians For The Commonwealth, Kentucky Riverkeeper, Waterkeeper Alliance, Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center, the Capua Law Firm, the Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic and the Waterworth Law Office.