By Sandra Diaz
Our ongoing legal action against the two largest mountaintop removal coal companies in Kentucky, totaling over 20,000 violations of the Clean Water Act, continues. We also initiated legal action against another coal company with a startling amount of Clean Water Act violations.
Declaring “an abuse of discretion to deny those citizens and environmental groups the right to participate in this action,” State Judge Shepherd granted us approval to conduct discovery (physical investigation) and deposition (interview) on the settlement proposed by the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet with ICG and Frasure Creek Mining, in order to determine whether the settlement negotiated is “fair, adequate, reasonable and consistent with the public interest.”
The Kentucky Cabinet attempted to appeal the decision to a higher court of law, characterizing our intervention as an “unwarranted burden.” We countered that the move was premature, inconsistent with the law and not in Kentuckians’ best interests. The appeal motion was dismissed and a hearing is set for June 14.
Our legal team consists of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, Kentucky Riverkeeper and Waterkeeper Alliance, represented by Pace Law Center.
This same team, along with lawyers from Natural Resources Defense Council, announced on March 9 our intent to sue Nally & Hamilton Coal Company for more than 12,000 violations of the Clean Water Act. Our evidence indicates that Nally and Hamilton — like Frasure Creek and ICG — filed false and potentially fraudulent water pollution monitoring data with state agencies over the past three years for more than a dozen of its operations in seven eastern Kentucky counties.
Data we collected indicates that Nally & Hamilton may have “cut-and-paste” previous sets of data in later reports rather than monitoring the discharge and submitting accurate data for each month. The company may have also repeatedly omitted legally-required data from its reports.
If fined, the maximum allowed under the Clean Water Act would amount to potential penalties of more than $400 million. Nally and Hamilton, as well as the state, has 60 days to respond. While we have yet to receive an official response, Nally & Hamilton has completely removed their website from the internet.
To read about the numerous twists and turns in these cases and for up-to-date information, please visit appvoices.org/kylitigation.
Appalachian Voices needs $25,000 to hire handwriting experts, forensics experts, conduct depositions and other correlated research A generous donor pledged $12,500 — half the amount — but only if we can raise the remaining $12,500 by Earth Day, April 22. Learn more at appvoices.org/waterdefense.
Thanks to efforts by our Upper Watauga Riverkeeper team, the town of Boone, N.C. passed strict new regulations aimed at limiting the impacts of coal tar-based asphalt sealant on local waterways. A spill of the sealant into the town’s Hodges Creek last fall devastated more than a mile of aquatic stream life and lead to the town council’s review and ultimate decision, which will require residents and business owners to get approval for permits to apply sealant to sidewalks and driveways. Processing fees for the applications will be directed to costs of oversight and regulation of the new ordinance.
Staff from Appalachian Voices will venture to several points in Appalachia for Earth Week events. Come meet with us and learn more about our work to protect the air, water, land and communities of Appalachia. Look for us in the following locations:
April 16 — 2011 Piedmont Earth Day Fair, Winston-Salem, N.C.
April 16 — Charlotte Green and Clean, Charlotte, N.C.
April 16 — Planet Art, Asheville, N.C.
April 19 — Lobbying Presentation, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Va.
April 20 — Appalachian State University, Boone, N.C.
April 20 — Dirty Business Screening with Q&A, Naro Cinema, Norfolk, Va.
April 22 — Eco Fair on the downtown mall, Charlottesville, Va.
April 22 — Trees on Fire concert, Jefferson Theater, Charlottesville, Va.
Appalachian Voices has partnered with Uncommon Productions and DADA Films to help promote The Last Mountain Movie, a passionate and personal tale about the struggle over powering America with Appalachian coal and the detrimental consequences it generates. Written, directed and produced by award-winning documentary filmmaker Bill Haney, the film opened to critical acclaim at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, and anticipates a limited theatrical release on June 3.
Appalachian Voices will be attending special screenings of the film to assist at informational tables and participate in a 20-minute Q&A following the screenings. Currently we have scheduled screening visits from June 3rdt through the 9th in Sunshine, N.Y., and Washington, D.C. Dates are tentative as of this issue’s publication; visit AppVoices.org for screening details and be sure to check out thelastmountainmovie.com to watch the trailer and read more about this exciting new cinema release.
Appalachian Voices would like to welcome the newest member to our family! Emma Elizabeth Randolph, daughter of J.W. Randolph (our Washington, D.C. Legislative Associate) and his wife, Elizabeth (graduating from medical school at the University of Virginia), was born on February 25 at 10:41 a.m. with an honestly inherited predilection for loving people and the planet. She enjoys lazing about on her blanket, fresh cloth diapers, quality time with mom and taking walks on the Rivanna River. She anticipates canoeing, climbing and loving mountains for a long, long time.
Be sure to mark your calendars for Tuesday, May 10, at 5:30 when Appalachian Voices will host Green Drinks at our downtown Boone, N.C., office. The event will feature a small cover for all-you-can-drink regional brews (bring your own glass!) and a short presentation on our work. Green Drinks is a monthly event in the High Country region of North Carolina that highlights local green businesses and non-profits, providing a laid-back atmosphere for socializing and networking. All are welcome to attend!
As this issue of The Voice was going to print, Appalachian Voices and their allies with the Wise Energy for Virginia Coalition were gearing up for the second annual Virginia Loves Mountains Day. This year’s Virginia Loves Mountains Day was not a rally in any one place, but 11 rallies—one at each U.S. Senate regional office across the Commonwealth. Over 300 people are registered to participate, either by visiting Senator Webb and Warren’s district offices or by calling their offices in Washington, urging them to stand up for the EPA’s good work on mountaintop removal coal mining.
Currently, members of Congress are attempting to defund the EPA’s consideration of new mountaintop removal regulations that would limit mining waste from being dumped into headwater streams. For information on Virginia Loves Mountains Day, visit WiseEnergyforVirginia.org.
We would like to welcome two new board members, voted in during our elections last fall — the Rev. Jim Deming and Cale Jaffe. Both bring years of environmental stewardship and conservation.
Rev. Jim Deming is the Minister for Environmental Justice for the United Church of Christ, and previously served as the Executive Director for Tennessee Interfaith Power and Light.
Cale Jaffe is a senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center and a lecturer at the University of Virginia School of Law.
Visit AppVoices.org/About to meet all of our Board and Staff!