The Richmond Register

Local News

May 18, 2013

Environmental groups seek court review from cabinet order

FRANKFORT — A coalition of environmental groups has once again asked Franklin Circuit Court to help them in their long-running battle with the Cabinet for Energy and Environment and a coal company which violated provisions of the federal Clean Water Act.

On Thursday, Appalachian Voices, Waterkeeper Alliance, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, Kentucky Riverkeeper and several individuals asked the court to vacate an agreed order signed in April by Cabinet Secretary Len Peters and Frasure Creek Mining.

That settlement “lets Frasure Creek off the hook for thousands of water quality violations,” said Eric Chance of Appalachian Voices. The company “for years had been submitting false monitoring reports” which the environmentalists and not the cabinet discovered, he said.

Cabinet spokesman Dick Brown said it had “just received the document and are going through it. We will have no comment at this point.”

In June of 2011, the groups threatened to sue Frasure Creek over what they alleged were 2,800 violations of the CWA during the first three months of 2011.

As permitted by the CWA, the cabinet then conducted its own investigation and concluded many of the violations occurred and sought enforcement through its own administrative enforcement and hearing division.

The cabinet’s administrative judge, however, granted the environmental groups intervener status, making them parties to negotiations between the coal company and the cabinet.

But the environmentalists charge in the petition for review filed Thursday that Peters and the cabinet conducted negotiations with Frasure Creek without notifying the environmental groups who were thus denied the chance to participate and then signed the order over their objections.

They also say the agreement will do little or nothing to deter Frasure Creek or other companies from future violations of the CWA.

“We felt the settlement is inadequate and the cabinet entered the agreement though secret negotiations without involving us,” said Pat Banks of Richmond, who heads the Kentucky Riverkeeper. “It’s just another backroom settlement with a coal company that broke the law.”

When the environmentalists learned Peters had tendered a proposed agreement to the cabinet’s hearing officer in early January, they filed objections, including their exclusion from negotiations with the coal company.

But according to their petition filed in Franklin Circuit on Thursday, those objections were never heard, and Peters signed the agreement April 16. But, it included no explanation for entering the order or any indication he reviewed the environmentalists’ objections.

“We as citizens have the right to intervene and see and participate in this process,” said Ted Withrow, a former decorated cabinet employee and now a member of KFTC who lives near Morehead. “Yet the cabinet continues to ignore the law and shield another coal company from any meaningful enforcement.”

The debate between Frasure Creek, the cabinet and environmental groups stretches back to October 2010 when the environmental groups alleged thousands of CWA violations by Frasure Creek and another coal company, ICG.

Peters and the cabinet subsequently conducted an investigation and documented numerous violations by both companies and sought to enter an agreed order in Franklin Circuit Court.

But the environmentalists sought to intervene in those original cases, claiming the cabinet’s agreement was insufficient to deter future violations. Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd allowed them to do so over the objections of the cabinet which argued among other things the court had no jurisdiction even though it was the cabinet which chose to file the order in that same court.

Shepherd exhorted all the parties to negotiate an agreement and eventually ICG reached agreement with the environmental groups and cabinet. But Frasure Creek claimed faces financial reversals make it impossible for it to pay proposed civil penalties or agree to terms with the environmental groups.

The court hasn’t yet ruled in that case.

But when environmental groups alleged additional violations by Frasure Creek in June 2011, the cabinet went through its own administrative process avoiding Franklin Circuit Court. That is the case covered by Peters’ April agreed order which environmentalists want to contest in Franklin Circuit.

Ronnie Ellis writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at rellis@cnhi.com. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ cnhifrankfort.

1
Text Only
Local News
  • 7-9 Fire 8.JPG Firefighters credited with saving lives, limiting damage

    Tuesday afternoon’s fire in 200 block of West Main Street rendered four apartments unlivable and caused about $150,000 in damage, Richmond Fire Chief Buzzy Campbell said Wednesday.
    The fire began on a apartment deck behind the MexiHollywood restaurant, but Campbell said it was too early to specify a cause.

    July 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • 7-10 Downtown 4.jpg Long-time family businesses prospering on Water Street

    The fire that damaged a Main Street building Tuesday and destroyed an apartment deck facing Water Street was only a temporary disruption to downtown businesses.
    All Water Street businesses were back to normal Wednesday morning.
    The street that runs parallel to Main for five blocks is home to a number of family-owned businesses that also have not been deterred by the heavy rains that sometimes flood the street.

    July 9, 2014 7 Photos

  • Charges reduced against Detroit man who tried to elude police

    A Detroit man who led police in a brief vehicle chase May 8 and then attempted to hide in a ditch will spend 120 days in jail after pleading guilty to reduced charges Wednesday in Madison District Court.

    July 9, 2014

  • Commissioner calls for city outreach, transparency

    Cultivating trust between citizens and government is something that’s talked about but often neglected, but one Richmond city official said he hopes that will soon change.

    July 9, 2014

  • 7-10 Robert Farra.jpg Early Wednesday traffic stop leads to meth arrest

    An early Wednesday traffic stop by Madison County Sheriff’s deputies led to the driver’s arrest on meth-making charges.

    July 9, 2014 1 Photo

  • Police: Two flee on foot after vehicle chase

    Two people, who Richmond Police said fled on foot Monday after failing to yield to an officer attempting to make a traffic stop, were charged with several offenses.

    July 9, 2014

  • Naming of kindergarten academy on school board agenda

    Naming of the new kindergarten academy to be housed in the former Mayfield Elementary School building is on the Madison County School Board’s agenda Thursday evening.
    The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. in the Madison Central High School lecture lab.

    July 8, 2014

  • Taylor raises twice amount of primary opponents

    Reagan Taylor, who won the Republican nomination for Madison County Judge/Executive in the May 20 primary, raised nearly twice the combined amount in campaign contributions as his four opponents.

    Taylor came in first in the five-man race by a 592 vote margin.

    According to figures posted on the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance website, Taylor raised $38,155 and spent all but $6,728. He received 2,066 votes.

    July 8, 2014

  • 7-9 Downtown fire 1aa.jpg Couple rescued from downtown fire

    Two people were taken to the hospital Tuesday afternoon after being trapped briefly when a deck near their apartment in downtown Richmond caught fire..

    July 8, 2014 13 Photos

  • InmateImg072014ZZZ104919_07062014211838.jpg Police: Woman left children in car for 30 minutes

    A Berea woman is facing a first-degree wanton endangerment charge after police say she left her children in a car for 30 minutes while she was inside a store.

    July 8, 2014 1 Photo

AP Video
Connecticut Boy Dies Inside Parked Car World's Tallest Water Slide: See It for Yourself Fans Dying to Be Near Jazz Greats Robots Gearing Up for Their Own 'World Cup' APNewsBreak: Different Attackers in Benghazi? Four Kids, Two Adults Shot Dead Near Houston Argentina to Face Germany in World Cup Final Service Held for 200 Whose Bodies Went Unclaimed Kim Kardashian Hits Up Valentino Show in Paris "Hotwives" Spoofs Reality TV Israeli Offensive Escalates in Gaza Attack Dozens Gain Citizenship As Debate Continues Dodgers Found Partly Responsible in Fan Beating Children of Deported Parents Speak Out GOP: Immigration a 'human Rights Issue' Raw: 10-year Sentence for Ex-New Orleans Mayor Raw: Fans Gather for Argentina-Netherlands Match Froome Crashes Out on Bumpy 5th Tour Stage Obama Talks Economy, Slams Republicans Police: Prostitute Accused in Overdose Death
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Poll

How far will you be traveling for your summer vacation?

Staying in Kentucky
Visiting a neighboring state
Driving or flying a greater distance
     View Results