AV’s Riverkeeper Initiates Case Against Kentucky Coal Companies

Coalition Files NOIS Over Claims of Falsified Monitoring Data

Appalachian Voices’ Upper Watauga Riverkeeper team assembled a lineup of heavy-hitting environmental groups in October to file suit against three Kentucky mining companies for violating the Clean Water Act.

A coalition including Appalachian Voices, Kentuckians For The Commonwealth, Kentucky Riverkeeper and Waterkeeper Alliance filed a sixty day “intent to sue” notice letter alleging that three companies operating in eastern Kentucky exceeded pollution discharge limits in their permits, consistently failed to conduct the required monitoring of their discharges and, in many cases, submitted false monitoring data to the state agencies charged with protecting the public.

Joining in the lawsuit were several local residents impacted by the dumping of mining waste into Kentucky’s waterways.

The three companies, IGC Knott, IGC Hazard and Fraser Creek Mining, were cited for inaccurate or false discharge monitoring reports (DMRs), water quality monitoring reporting required by the Environmental Protection Agency. The reports are supposed to be monitored for accuracy by the Kentucky Division of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement with enforcement oversight by the Kentucky Division of Water. Permits issued by the state allow coal mining companies to discharge limited amounts of pollutants into nearby streams and rivers; those same permits, however, also require industries to carefully monitor and report pollution discharges—such as manganese, iron, total suspended solids and pH—to state officials.

“The sheer number of violations we found while looking over these companies’ monitoring reports is astounding,” said Donna Lisenby of Appalachian Voices. “It shows a systematic and pervasive pattern of misinformation. These companies are making a mockery of their legal responsibility under the Clean Water Act and, more troubling, their moral obligation to the people of the state of Kentucky.”

According to Donna Lisenby, the claims brought, “may just be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to irresponsible mining reporting practices and a failure in the state’s monitoring program.” When the Riverkeeper team was in the London regional offices of the Kentucky Department of Surface Mining, they found stack after stack of DMRs from more than 60 coal mines and processing facilities covered in dust on desks.

“We don’t think they had been reviewed for three years.” said Donna Lisenby.

The plaintiffs are being represented by lawyers with the Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center, the Capua Law Firm and the Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic.

ICG, owner of subsidiaries ICG Knott and ICG Hazard, responded that they would promptly investigate the allegations violations of the Clean Water Act, stating that “The company is completely committed to conducting its operations in accordance with applicable laws.”

Under the Clean Water Act, the companies have sixty days to respond to the allegations made in the notice letter, after which the plaintiffs have stated that if all violations have not been corrected, the coalition plans to file complaint in federal district court. The 60-day time period ends in early December with more legal filings expected shortly after The Voice press date. For the most current updates, visit: BustingBigCoal


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