Unique Kentucky Fish Listed as Threatened
In early October, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the Kentucky arrow darter, a fish found only in eastern Kentucky, as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The listing also includes protection for 248 miles of stream habitat throughout 10 eastern Kentucky counties. The darter has disappeared from approximately half of its historical range, primarily due to water pollution from surface coal mining and other extractive land uses.
The new protective status of the Kentucky arrow darter ensures that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will provide oversight on the permitting process for surface mines that may impact the fish or its habitat. This oversight will help protect this small, colorful fish and other species that may rely on similar habitat, which could affect overall ecosystem and community health. — Erin Savage
Tennessee Announces Clean Energy Grants
In early November, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation announced that it is rolling out $1.5 million in clean energy grants across the state. The funding, which comes from a 2011 Clean Air Act Settlement with the Tennessee Valley Authority, will be available to local governments, utility boards and other state entities through the Clean Tennessee Energy Grant Program for projects that support clean energy solutions, energy efficiency and conservation, or improve air quality. Preference will be given to projects in counties that are designated as distressed and counties that have not previously received a clean energy grant. Pre-proposals are due by Feb. 28, 2017. — Lou Murrey
Alabamians Gain Path to Challenge Mines
Following a settlement in early November, Alabama residents can challenge mining operations in their state without facing the threat of costly fees. According to federal law, citizens can participate in the permit process and raise challenges when environmental violations are suspected.
Before the settlement, Alabama law allowed the state’s Surface Mining Commission and coal mining companies to charge their lawyer’s fees to the citizen who raised a complaint, even when a case had merit.
The lawsuit resolved by this settlement was filed by Black Warrior Riverkeeper, a nonprofit environmental group, so that citizens could make good faith challenges without fear of prohibitive fees. — Elizabeth E. Payne
Lawsuit Filed Over Black Lung
A lawsuit filed on Oct. 28 against The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Md., alleges that Dr. Paul Wheeler, a radiologist at the hospital, intentionally misread the x-rays of hundreds of coal miners with black lung disease. Because of his connection to this well-respected institution, his diagnoses overruled those of other doctors and lead to the dismissal of more than 800 benefit claims for miners with the disease. — Elizabeth E. Payne