Front Porch Blog

Environmental agency asleep at the switch?

Water flowing from one of the discharge points in Floyd County, Ky., that Frasure Creek Mining was turning in false water monitoring reports about.

Water flowing from one of the discharge points in Floyd County, Ky., that Frasure Creek Mining was turning in false water monitoring reports about.

At first, I couldn’t believe what our Appalachian Water Watch team had discovered earlier this year: almost 28,000 violations of the Clean Water Act by a single company in the coal counties of eastern Kentucky. It appeared to be the most extensive incident of non-compliance in the law’s 42-year history.

Frasure Creek Mining had duplicated or otherwise falsified hundreds of the water pollution reports it’s required to send to the state. Equally impressive is the fact that, over the course of a full year and a half, state regulators apparently failed to notice.

It’s shocking – but alas, not a surprise. This level of callous disregard for the laws meant to protect our health, safety, and natural heritage is all too common among Appalachia’s coal companies, regulators and often politicians. Here’s a short list.

  • An employee of a major W.Va.-certified lab pled guilty in October to faking water quality samples for coal companies — not just a few times, but for six years.
  • Last week, Tennessee fined three companies owned by Jim Justice $1.36 million for failing to submit pollution reports at 25 coal facilities, all of which had been warned twice. The companies appealed the fines, as is the MO for Justice-owned companies.
  • Don Blankenship, CEO of Massey Energy when 29 miners died in 2010 at the company’s Upper Big Branch mine in W. Va., was indicted in November on four criminal counts for conspiring to willfully violate safety rules, conceal violations, and then lying about it.
  • According to a recent investigation by National Public Radio, 9 out of 10 coal mining companies with the highest unpaid fines for safety violations are in Appalachia, ranging from $1 million to almost $4.5 million, with a total of 9,839 violations.

Back to Frasure Creek Mining, this wasn’t the first time we’d caught the company falsifying pollution records and found the state apparently asleep at the switch. In 2010, Appalachian Voices discovered 9,000 violations over a two-year period. We and our allies in Kentucky took legal action to compel the state to enforce the law, and the company to comply.

The pattern is clear. Coal companies continue to benefit from a widespread failure to enforce the law that is devastating the land and water and communities’ health. The toll on the citizens and communities of Appalachia is equally clear –- higher than average rates of cancer and birth defects, persistent poverty, poisoned streams, and a deep-rooted sense of place rocked by the blasts of explosives that flatten mountain after mountain.

With this in mind, Appalachian Voices and our partners served Frasure Creek Mining on November 17 with a notice of our intent to sue for the recent spate of Clean Water Act violations. The fight for justice continues.

For the waters,
Tom

PS: See this excellent article from the New York Times.

TAGS:

PREVIOUS

NEXT

AV-mountainBorder-tan-medium1

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

5 Comments

  1. Jane Hope on November 22, 2014 at 3:46 pm

    From a Kentuckian—-THANK YOU!!



  2. Jane Hope on November 22, 2014 at 3:45 pm

    THank You!!!!



  3. Suzanne Michael on November 22, 2014 at 10:13 am

    It doesn’t surprise me one bit that even the leaders of the listed states look the other way, let alone the ones working at the mines who are supose to protect the community. All any of them care about is more coal. If people die in the process oh well! We need someone higher up in our government to step in and stop all the violations, thats the only way it will get done. People are dying, or getting sick and most can’t afford to fight these big powerful companies. It’s up to our government to step in and make these companies abide by the rules of the land! Why it hasn’t already happened appalls me! Coal is the nastiest fuel we have out there, and it needs to be shut down all across our country. All the beautiful mountains that have been wiped away to get to it is heartbreaking. This all needs to be settled ASAP!



  4. Suzanne Michael on November 22, 2014 at 10:12 am

    It doesn’t surprise me one bit that even the leaders of the listed states look the other way, let alone the ones working at the mines who are supose to protect the community. All any of them care about is more coal. If people die in the process oh well! We need someone higher up in our government to step in and stop all the violations, thats the only way it will get done. People are dying, or getting sick and most can’t afford to fight these big powerful companies. It’s up to our governm,ent to step in and makle these companies abide by the rules of the land! Why it hasn’t already happened appalls me! Coal is the nastiest fuel we have out there, and it needs to be shut down all across our country. All the beautiful mountains that have been wiped away to get to it is heartbreaking. This all needs to be settled ASAP!



  5. carole conrad on November 22, 2014 at 9:12 am

    Dear Tom
    Please be sure all major USA and NC news/tv agencies get this article.
    Please do sue.
    Thanks for all your work



Leave a Comment