The Front Porch Blog, with Updates from AppalachiaThe Front Porch Blog, with Updates from Appalachia

Kentucky court sides with citizens and environment

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014 | Posted by Eric Chance | No Comments

Last week, Appalachian Voices and our partners won a major victory in the Kentucky courts when a judge overturned two slap-on-the-wrist settlements that the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet had reached with Frasure Creek Mining a few years ago. [ More ]

Same coal company, same old (illegal) tricks

Monday, November 17th, 2014 | Posted by Eric Chance | No Comments

They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. That certainly seems to be the case with Frasure Creek Mining. Four years ago we took legal action against them for submitting false water monitoring reports, and now they are at it again, but this time the false reporting is even more extensive. [ More ]

Court Victory for Clean Water in Kentucky: The Battle Continues

Friday, July 19th, 2013 | Posted by Eric Chance | No Comments

Acidic mine water being discharged from one of Frasure Creek’s Kentucky coal mines

Last week, an attempt by the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet to toss concerned citizens out of court failed.

Judge Phillip Shepherd denied a motion to dismiss our challenge of a settlement between Frasure Creek Mining and the cabinet. Appalachian Voices and our partners KFTC, Kentucky Riverkeeper and Waterkeeper Alliance, will now be allowed to proceed with our argument that the settlement should be vacated.

In October of 2010, we filed a Notice of Intent to Sue Frasure Creek for submitting false water monitoring data. Frasure Creek and the cabinet reached a settlement for those violations, but it has not been approved by the court. Before that, the data Frasure Creek submitted to the state never showed any violations. After our legal action, they switched labs and began showing hundreds of water quality violations every month.

We attempted to sue Frasure Creek for these subsequent violations, but the cabinet filed a complaint in state administrative court for the same violations. We intervened and became full parties to that case, but then a slap on the wrist settlement was entered between Frasure Creek and the cabinet completely without our consent. Our current challenge to this settlement is based on the fact that we are full parties in the case yet we had no say in the settlement’s creation.

The cabinet attempted to get our challenge thrown out because they claimed that we did not follow proper procedures when we filed it, but the judge dismissed their arguments. Now, the cabinet must respond to the substance of our challenge.

>> Click here to read the ruling
>> Click here to read more about this challenge
>> Click here for more information on our Kentucky Litigation

Appalachian Voices and Partners Challenge Kentucky’s Backroom Deal With Coal Company

Friday, May 17th, 2013 | Posted by Eric Chance | No Comments

Watercolors by Frasure Creek. State inspector's photos show a variety of colors of water at Frasure Creek mines.

Yesterday, Appalachian Voices and our partner organizations filed a “petition for review”, essentially an appeal of a settlement between Frasure Creek Mining and the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet. This settlement lets Frasure Creek off the hook for thousands of water quality violations over the past two years, while doing little to ensure that the company fixes its water quality problems.

Our challenge of this settlement focuses on the way in which it came about. But first, a bit of background.

We have a separate case that is ongoing against Frasure Creek for submitting false water monitoring data (entire reports were duplicated and only the dates were changed). After we uncovered this problem the company began turning in more accurate reports, which for the first time showed lots of pollution problems. We then filed a second suit against Frasure Creek for thousands of these pollution problems (which had been hidden by reporting problems before our first suit). Then the cabinet also filed a complaint for these pollution violations and more like them in state administrative court (a court run by the cabinet itself).

We intervened in that case and became full parties to it, but were then shut out of it completely. In fact the settlement was entered despite our previous objections, and there is no evidence that our objections were even considered. The cabinet and Frasure Creek negotiated a settlement completely without us. The law and common sense both dictate that an agreement is not valid unless all the parties involved agree to it, and that is the basis for our challenge of this settlement yesterday.

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Appalachain Voices and Partners Object to Backroom Deal With Kentucky Coal Company

Monday, February 4th, 2013 | Posted by Eric Chance | No Comments

Frasure Creek owner, and billionaire, Ravi Ruia's yacht. Note the matching helicopter! Frasure Creek Mining is apparently on the verge of bankruptcy, but it's owners seem to be doing just fine. Click the image to learn more about the boat.

A coalition of citizens’ groups including Appalachian Voices filed objections to a proposed settlement between Kentucky’s Energy and Environment Cabinet and one of the state’s largest coal mining companies, Frasure Creek Mining. The agreement would legally resolve over a thousand water pollution violations from 2011 and 2012 at all of Frasure Creek’s mines across Eastern Kentucky, but the agreement will not fix the pollution problems.

Despite the fact that we are full parties to this enforcement action, this agreement was crafted entirely behind closed doors without us. Over and over again the cabinet has made every effort to exclude us and aid polluters. One of our objections to this settlement is that it has violated our right to due process since our names are on this agreement yet we had no say in it whatsoever.

Some of Frasure Creek's false conductivity values

Even more alarming, we expect that if this agreement is entered the cabinet will likely try to argue that this makes another ongoing case that we are involved in moot. That case is primarily based on blatantly false water monitoring reports submitted by Frasure Creek. Prior to that legal action, Frasure never admitted having pollution problems like the ones at issue in this case. It was not until they came under increased scrutiny, following our initial court filing, that they began reporting more truthful water monitoring data, uncovering the pollution violations at issue in this settlement.

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Singin’ the Catawba River Blues After Commission’s Decision On Coal Ash

Thursday, December 6th, 2012 | Posted by | 1 Comment

By Hallie Carde
Red, White and Water intern, Spring 2013

North Carolina, we have a problem.

The waste from burning coal, known as coal ash, continues to threaten our state’s water supply. Seepage from coal ash impoundments is contaminating North Carolina’s water at various sites throughout the state. Unaddressed in the past and denied in the present, this pollution demands a stronger fight to protect clean water, and advocates are putting up that fight.

Unfortunately, advocates for N.C.’s clean water recently lost a battle on the coal ash front. This past Monday, the Environmental Management Commission (EMC) ruled against a petition to require Duke Energy to clean up contamination resulting from 14 of their coal ash pits.

Monday’s hearing ended in a 9-2 decision that the company’s coal ash sites are exempt from the requirements of the state’s groundwater standards and therefore do not require immediate clean up.

In October, the Southern Environmental Law Center filed a formal complaint on behalf of four organizations (Cape Fear River Watch, Sierra Club, Waterkeeper Alliance, and Western N.C. Alliance) against Progress and Duke Energies to clean up the contamination from their coal ash ponds.


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Landmark Settlement Proposed in Kentucky Water Pollution Case

Friday, October 5th, 2012 | Posted by Eric Chance | No Comments

Appalachian Voices, along with a coalition of citizens’ groups, has reached a historic agreement with International Coal Group, Inc. (ICG), and the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet over years of false reporting and water pollution violations in Eastern Kentucky and a failure by the state to enforce the Clean Water Act.

We are very glad to achieve this settlement which will help clean up pollution in streams throughout the coal-impacted region, and we are proud to have worked with our partners in this important case that has already yielded changes in the coal industry and state regulatory agencies. The agreement was filed today in Franklin County Circuit Court and needs to be approved by the judge before taking effect.

Read our press release to find out more about the settlement.

In 2010, we uncovered dozens of pollution monitoring reports submitted by ICG and Frasure Creek Mining to the cabinet that were clearly false. Our analysis showed that some reports included all the same data as previous reports, but the dates had been changed. In other cases, there were multiple and contradictory reports for the same discharge point. Not only were the reports inaccurate, they were masking major pollution problems, as can be seen in the graphs below.

ICG Knott Conductivity


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KY Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Citizens and Water

Friday, April 27th, 2012 | Posted by Eric Chance | 1 Comment

Yesterday the Kentucky State Supreme Court ruled in favor of Appalachian Voices and our partners KFTC, Waterkeeper and the Kentucky Riverkeeper. The ruling upheld lower court rulings allowing us to intervene in a lawsuit between Frasure Creek Mining and the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet.

That case was brought about in October 2010 when we filed a Notice of Intent to Sue against Frasure Creek Mining, and International Coal Group (Now an Arch Coal subsidiary) for 20,000 violations of the Clean Water Act with potential penalties of over $700 million. The bulk of these violations relate to false and potentially fraudulent reporting of water pollution levels. Under the Clean Water Act companies have limits on the amount of pollution they are allowed to release, and they are required to monitor their pollution to make sure they meet these limits.

In an effort to keep us from being able to bring a case in federal court, the coal companies reached settlements with the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet, but those settlements needed to be approved by a state court. The settlements amounted to little more than a slap on the wrist; they have minimal fines and no meaningful measures to ensure that the same problems will not continue. Through the citizen suit provision of the Clean Water Act, citizen are allowed to participate in legal actions to protect public waters. Using this provision, we intervened in the state court case in order to argue that the state’s settlement was not fair, adequate and in the public interest.


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Join Us for World Water Day Events and Kick Some Coal Ash

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012 | Posted by Sandra Diaz | No Comments

World Water Day is on Thursday, March 22. It is a day to not only celebrate the gift of water, but to also learn what we can do to protect this precious resource. In North Carolina, water pollution from coal ash, the residue from burning coal for electricity, is a huge state-wide problem that can no longer be ignored.

In order to educate and activate citizens who care about protecting our water, we have some great events planned in Charlotte and Asheville! We ask that you RSVP here.

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Nally & Hamilton Case Continues in State Court

Friday, December 9th, 2011 | Posted by Eric Chance | 2 Comments

Yesterday Appalachian Voices along with our partners Kentucky Riverkeeper, Kentuckians For The Commonwealth, and Waterkeeper Alliance challenged the recent settlement between Nally & Hamilton and the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet in state court.

Click here to see the press release with more information on this newest development.

Click here to see the how the case has developed.

Click here to view the state court petition.

Several Kentucky news outlets covered this development. Click the links below to see the news articles.
Ronnie Ellis for the Daily Independent
Erica Peterson for WFPL Public Radio
Bill Estep and Beth Musgrave for the Lexington Herald-Leader

Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet cuts deal with Nally and Hamilton for Water Pollution Violations

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011 | Posted by Eric Chance | No Comments

Last week the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet entered a settlement with Nally and Hamilton Enterprises to resolve tens of thousands of violations of the Clean Water Act. The pending agreed order, originally submitted in September, was signed by the Cabinet Secretary Len Peters, now making it official.

Nally and Hamilton is one of the largest producers of Mountain Top removal Coal in Kentucky. They are also being sued by a number of citizens over flooding caused by one of their mines, which lead to a great deal of property damage and killed two people. (more…)

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Bring Us Your Drugs: Operation Medicine Cabinet This Saturday, October 8th

Monday, October 3rd, 2011 | Posted by Erin Savage | No Comments

This Saturday, October 8th, we will hold our 5th Operation Medicine Cabinet (OMC), a prescription and over-the-counter drug take-back program aimed at keeping drugs off the streets and out of our rivers.

The first OMC was held in October of 2009, as a result of collaboration between the MountainKeepers organization, the Upper Watauga Riverkeeper, Watauga County Recycling and Solid Waste Department, North Carolina Cooperative Extension and local law enforcement, including the Watauga County Sheriff. As the program has continued, it has grown to include many organizations, agencies and businesses. We could not continue to have so much success without help from the community.

Since the program began, we have held the event each May and October. In October 2010, we collected 350,000 pills – our biggest event yet. Through this program, we accept all prescription drugs, no questions asked. We also accept medical supplies including needles and other sharps, as well as over-the-counter drugs. Once we have collected the drugs, they are packaged by the Watauga County Sheriff’s department and sent away for incineration. Incineration is the safest means for disposing of expired and unused medications.

One obvious reason for holding a prescription drug take-back program is to reduce prescription drug abuse by kids. Kids often gain access to dangerous painkillers through the medicine cabinets of their friends and families. A second reason is to keep drugs out of the local rivers. When drugs are flushed down the toilet or washed down the sink, the drugs go through wastewater treatment facilities and are then released into the local waterways. Wastewater treatment facilities cannot remove antibiotics, hormones and other chemicals from wastewater. Even over-the-counter drugs such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen have been detected in some watersheds.

The accumulation of drugs in rivers, streams and lakes pose several problems. Antibiotics in waterways contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Increased hormones in waterways act as endocrine disrupters, which have negative consequences on the development and reproduction of aquatic animals such as fish and amphibians. With new drugs being developed all the time, ongoing research is needed to catalogue the affects of these drugs on the environment. Our safest course of action is to do our part to keep all drugs out of our waterways.

You can drop off your drugs this Saturday, October 8th, from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm at the following locations:

Food Lion in Boone
Food Lion in Deep Gap
Food Lion in Blowing Rock
Foscoe Fire Department
Beech Mountain Town Hall
Beaverdam Volunteer Fire Department

Appalachian State University will also have a drop of location on Friday, October 7th from 11:00 am to 2:00pm in the Plemmons Student Union building.